Donna shuffled nervously from foot to foot. Maybe the heels were a bad idea. She liked the confidence they gave her, and boy did she need that now. She hadn't seen anyone in the Brat- NO, the Organization, she corrected herself. Do not think of them as family! -not since the death of her Mel twenty years ago.
She hadn't wanted them, the Russians. Hadn't needed them. Donna shifted her gaze, glancing between the warning texted to her phone yesterday, to the heavy double doors at the end of the marble lined hall.
The private office.
She had to do this. Whatever she could for her baby. Her sweet Felicity.
Dmitri would have gone to his grave betting on never laying eyes on Donna Smoak ever again. Good thing he started in collections, and not dice games.
“To what do I owe this pleasure Mrs. Smoak.”
“Owe is the right word Dmitri.” She slid her phone across the highly polished table to his Sovietnik before sitting down. Never pass anything directly to the Pakhan. “It's my girl, she was only four when,” Donna swallowed thickly, “when Mel-,” she sniffed bringing a shaky hand to her mouth.
“I remember.” Dmitri signaled a guard to give Mrs. Smoak a glass of water with one hand while taking her cell phone from his associate with the other. He gave her a minute to collect herself and sip her drink while he read over the texts on her cell phone. “I see,” he said grimly scrolling back and forth through the exchange, “Your girl, where is she now? Still in Las Vegas?”
“No,” Donna replied setting the glass down on the edge of the mahogany conference table, “No she's in Starling now. Close to her brothers.”
“Her brothers,”he glanced back at the phone on the table between them, “of course.” He steepled his hands under his chin and turned to the glittering lights of Las Vegas spread out before him. “There is a new Captain in Starling now. One of the old four finally retired.” Dmitri turned back to Donna with a sad smile, surveying her as she fiddled with her purse strap. “We are all getting to retirement age now, aren't we Donna?”
She nodded and swallowed. Not trusting her voice.
“He's young and fast.” Dmitri continued shifting his attention back to the window, “Hungry to prove himself. I'll send him this.” His calloused finger flicked the edge of Donna's cell phone spinning it in a wobbly circle. “He will handle this.”
Donna picked up her cell and hugged it to her chest, like a proxy for her child, and smiled in relief. “Thank you so much, sir. I knew coming here was the right thing to-”
Dmitri gestured again to his guard who gently grabbed Mrs. Smoak by the elbow before steering her to the door, down the hall, and out of his building. The widows were always so tiring.
“Sending this to the иностранец?” his Sovietnik asked, when the echos of her clicking heels could no longer be heard, the doubt clear in his voice.
“Yes,” Dmitri said still gazing across the city. His city. “Yes, I think that's for the best.”
“-others, ok? You'll be safe now,” came the static-y voice over the phone, “just do.......you'll be alright!”
“What?” said Felicity, more exasperated than irritated, “Mom-MOM you are super breaking up right now. I can, seriously, barely hear you!”
More static”-your told, alright?”
“Mom!! Mom!” Felicity ducked her head to avoid an AC duct and continued to dart forward, juggling a messenger bag, two folders, her keys, and the phone jammed between her ear and shoulder. Trying desperately to not eat the blond wisps of hair that had escaped her ponytail.
“-are you, anyway?”
“I'm in a parking garage. I'm headed to my car, I just got off work.” Her phone clicked twice.
She was shuffling the keys into her pocket, and folders in to her messenger bag, so she could get her hair out of her mouth, and get the phone into her hand without dropping it on the floor of the parking garage, which (in her defense) is why she didn't notice the giant man she just ran (like literally ran) straight into.
It was only his quick (and giant) hand steadying her shoulder and plucking her phone out of her finger tips that they both (her and phone) didn't end up shattered on the concrete.
Felicity immediately jumped back a step and threw her arms into the 'hands up' position. “You can keep the phone,” she blurted out.
The man rolled his eyes and let out a heavy sigh, placing the cell back in her hand. “Just because I'm a black man doesn't mean I'm going to rob you.”
Felicity blinked twice. Once at the tech in her hand and once at the (very nicely dressed) man she'd crashed into. “I'm sorry,” she said frowning, “I don't know why I said that. You don't look like a mugger, you look like a banker.”
“Really?” the man said, smiling, “I should look like a body guard.”
“Seriously?,”Felicity enthused, taking a step in, “Do you know famous people? I bet you totally know famous people! Are you body-guarding right now? Oh my God! I bet it's someone I've heard of!”
“You're right,” the man said, “It is someone you've heard of, Ms. Smoak. I'm body guarding you.”
John Diggle. The nicely dressed businessman/banker/body guard had grinned boyishly at her and said, “But you can call me Digg.”
“So my mother,” Felicity said around a mouthful of fries, “thinks my life is in danger, and has hired me a body guard?”
“Nope,” replied Digg after taking a long pull off his milkshake. “You're mom talked to a Mr. Golitsyn, and he-”
“Dmitri? Dmitri Golitsyn?” Felicity leaned across the table dropping her voice. “Do you know who he is? Should we be talking about this in public?”
“Yeah,” John slurped up the last of his shake, “I do know who Mr. Golitsyn is.”
Felicity tilted her head to the side and swallowed another mouthful of fries. “Are you Russian?”
Diggle snort-laughed and started unwrapping his burger. “No,” he said shaking his head, “No, I am most definitely not.”
“Well, then how did you-”
“My employer,” Diggle said, his tone turning low and serious, “is employed by Mr. Golitsyn.”
“Oh,” Felicity slumped back into the corner of the booth, “so was my father.”
“Well, apparently now your mother-”
“No,” Felicity interrupted, “this doesn't sound a thing like my mother. She doesn't want anything to do with,” she gestured helplessly in front of herself, “with the family. Never.”
“Well,” Digg started, smiling diplomatically, “this is where we are now. So, you'll just come with me to by boss' house, camp out for a few days, and we'll wait for this all to blow over.”
“No way. I have a job. I have a.... semblance of a social life. I'm not going into hiding.” I promised my family. “I don't even know who your boss is!”
“I work for Mr. Queen.”
“Mr. Queen?” Felicity didn't mean for his name to come out like a question, but here we are.
Diggle's brow creased in confusion. “Mr. Queen, Ms. Smoak, I'm sure you've heard of him?”
Felicity shook her head as if to clear it, “The only Mr. Queen I've heard of is the recently returned from the dead one. Not in a zombie-gross way but in a Swiss-Family-Robinson-Except-In-The-Second-Circle-of-Hell way.”
“That would be him,” John bit out around a mouthful of burger.
Felicity tilted her head to the other side. “Is he Russian?”
Diggle nearly choked around his bite. “No, Ms. Smoak, I'm pretty sure he isn't either.”
“But he's associated with the Bratva?”
“He's not associated with it, he's in it.”
“As what, though? Low level enforcer?”
Diggle smiled again, “Captain.”
“Let me get this straight,” Felicity paused dramatically to sip her soda, “an American WASP playboy was shipwrecked for years on a deserted island off the coast of China, and has somehow become a Captain in the Russian Mafia.”
Digg licked the last of his ketchup and salt off his fingers. “Yep.”
“And you,” Felicity gestured with another fry, “work for the non-Russian, shipwrecked, miracle, Bratva Captain?”
“Yep,” Diggle wiped his hands and threw his napkin into his burger basket.
Felicity opened her mouth, once, twice, before clicking it shut again.
“Don't you want to know?” Diggle asked, his eyebrow arched.
“No, no I really don't. Some people should get to keep their secrets.”
“Do you feel better about following me to the house now?”
“No,” Felicity shook her head, “I really, really don't.” I don't trust the Bratva, so I don't trust you, and I certainly don't trust your boss.
“Ok,” Digg scooted out from his side of the booth, “How about I follow you home, make sure you get in alright, and tomorrow I'll take you for breakfast and we'll talk some more about it? You can sleep on it? Right?”
“Mr. Diggle, while I appreciate the offer I don't think this is really nec-”
“Your mother thought it was,” Diggle tossed the last of their trash into a bin by the door. “She thought it was necessary enough to call in a favor.”
Felicity sucked in a breath. “Ok,” she said on the exhale, “Ok, breakfast tomorrow.”
By the time Diggle had followed Ms. Smoak through city traffic, escorted her from where she had parked her car around the corner, to the front of her building, up all four flights of stairs to her front door, and had then done a quick sweep of her tiny studio, he was done. Done with her protesting, with her apologies, and with her obvious embarrassment of having him in her home.
He pulled the town-car further down the block and away from streetlamps but still with a good sight-line to both the front of the building and her fire escape. He briefly debated calling Roy and having him drive in another, more inconspicuous, car for him to sit in all night. He'd picked the Mercedes for his own personal comfort but it wouldn't be good for a known Bratva associate to be seen this close to China Town.
He scrubbed his hands roughly across his face and sighed. Might as well call Oliver. If the burger didn't give him indigestion, this phone call probably would. He sighed again before running his thumb quickly over the surface of his cell.
“John, how goes your mission?”
Mission, great. Oliver was like a dog with a bone when he got in these moods. “Not well. She-” Digg closed his eyes, and tipped his head back, searching in his vocabulary for the nicest way to put it, “she balked at the idea of coming to the house with me. So I'm camped down the street waiting to see if anything happens.”
“Why are you down the street? Anything could happen.” He could hear Oliver's agitation mounting through the phone. “How long would it take you to get to her if something were to happen? You should be as close to her as possible! I gave my word on this John! She is your priority! Your one-”
“I don't think I should be parked that close to China Town, Mr. Queen.” Diggle interrupted.
That brought him up short. “What?”
“She lives on Green St. just a few blocks from the highway. If I parked in front of her place in this car? If I was seen near her building?”
“The Triad would take it as an act of war.” Oliver was silent, all the way to a count of ten. “You need to get her out of there. These threats against her well being are credible. Get her to the house immediately.”
“I'm meeting up with her again tomorrow for breakfast to see if I can convince her.”
“Did you tell her that this comes straight from Mr. Golitsyn?”
“Yep. And she doesn't seem to care. She grew up around this, Oliver. She called him 'Dmitri'. I don't think a name drop is going to phase her.”
He could hear Oliver's teeth grinding through the phone, “I don't know what they're playing at, but she's here tomorrow, John. No options.”
“Mmmm, pancakes,” Felicity cooed, “I never eat like this on weekdays.”
“Really?” asked Digg, “Why?”
“Lazy, I guess,” she played with the menu on the Formica tabletop before neatly folding her hands around her coffee mug. She'd been riding a rough edge all night. Talking with Digg had stirred up a lot of old (bad) memories. “I'm the 'run into the office, bagel in the mouth, straight to the server room' kinda girl.”
“Do you like it?” Digg asked, sipping at his coffee, “The work you do?”
“Parts of it yeah.” Her hands gripped the mug tighter. She was grateful for his conversation. She was hopeful it would pull her away from the thoughts that had chased her last night into her dreams, squish them down under diner food and superficial company. “The computer part, the information part? I like it, and I'm good at it. The accounting part? Not so much.”
“How did you end up working with a bunch of accountants anyway?”
Felicity shrugged, a sad smile playing at the corners of her mouth, the dark thoughts creeping closer to the surface. “I needed something stable.”
“Being an accountant seems pretty stable.”
“Yeah, but I'm not any good at that. What I'm good at is computers. And I needed to be local, for my family. My brothers still rely on me in big way.”
Felicity closed her eyes, sliding into her earliest memory of her brothers. Their matching black suits at her father's funeral. Their little boy faces trying to be stoic but crumpling in tears. She saw her own tiny hands reach out to pat the lid of the closed coffin. 'Bye-bye Daddy. Have a nice sleep.' She startled and yanked her eyes open when her small trembling hand was engulfed in a friendly squeeze from Digg's warm and large one.
“Hey, are you here yet?” His brown eyes scanning her face. “You looked like you went away there for a minute.”
Felicity nodded, her voice getting caught in her throat behind twenty years of unshed tears.
“I don't get my jollies from scaring office workers, Ms. Smoak, and I know there should probably be some more pleasantries, and obviously a lot more breakfast before we get into this, but you need to know,” Diggle's face had taken on a earnest quality that Felicity hadn't seen on anyone in a long time, “These threats are credible, and your life is in danger.”
Felicity nodded hurriedly, hoping he understood her fear. How close to the edge she was all the time. Her closely held desire to feel safe again. To be out from under their thumb. She took a gasping breath and pinched he lips together, squeezed her eyes tight, hoping the physical pain would distract her from the emotional pain.
The images still washed over her. It was always hard to stop them, once they started. Fading from her father's funeral to her mother flinging herself into Dmitri's arms when he arrived at the house that morning with the news. The talk around the coffin, 'It has to be closed casket... you know.' And then later, her brothers, her brothers.
“Ms. Smoak, MS. SMOAK!” Diggle's hand was on her shoulder now shaking her gently.
“My mother,” Felicity gasped out, “is she going to be... I mean, should I go to her?”
“I don't think that's advisable,” John said, “If it was just a matter of getting you to Vegas, she would have just called you with a plane ticket. It's been suggested you stay out of contact for the interim. We know you don't call her often, and we want to stay as close to your routine as possible.”
“Ok,” Felicity said, more to herself than her companion. Willing her heart rate to slow, her breathing to even out, “Ok, I get home usually a little before six. I can meet you at my place. But I have to be back by Monday. My freelance projects are pretty flexible, but the nine to five gig isn't.”
“Absolutely,” Digg's smile was beatific, “Six at your place.”
Felicity smiled a little, squeezing his fingers gently before easing her hand back into her lap.
The weight in her stomach had eased just in time. Pancakes were here.
“Do you usually work so late?”
“What?” Felicity asked, half distracted by proper syrup distribution.
“I met you in the parking garage yesterday at five, you said you wouldn't be home today until nearly six.”
“Nope,” Felicity said gesturing with her butter knife, “I don't generally drive, I usually take the bus. Cheaper.”
“You have a one hour bus commute?”
“No of course not!” she said, laughing, “Forty minutes on the bus and a twenty minute walk.”
“There has to be apartments closer to where you work.”
“I don't mind walking. I like the fresh air.” I promised.
“I don't think 'three blocks away from the highway' is what most people would associate with fresh anything.”
Felicity dropped her fork to the edge of her plate, “My brothers, they know a guy, Tommy Johns, and he knows the guy who owns the building. They got me in the building as a favor.”
Diggle's mouth dropped open in disbelief, “They got you into that building as a favor?”
“It makes them happy that I'm there.”
“Who, the landlord? I'm sure it does.”
She swallowed another bite of pancake, “No, my brothers. And if it makes them happy for me to live there, then I am happy to do it.”
Diggle's mouth snapped shut with a click, head shaking slightly. “You must be on the road to sainthood.”
Felicity had to laugh at that. “Jews don't have saints, John.”
Police Transcript 10.1002.41
Location of Subjects: Blue Four Door Sedan Parked in Lot of Gas Station 1900 block of S 56th St.
Police Location: Surveillance Van #4 225 ft S.E of subjects location
Subjects Identity: Unknown Triad Associate “Alex”: Unknown Triad Associate “Eli”
Alex: Xiang is going to kill us.
Eli: He won't. He wants the money.
Alex: We already gave him the money.
Eli: That doesn't matter. Now he wants more money.
Alex: He'll always want more. First we owed him a thousand, we pay that. Now he says it's five.
Eli: We'll have to hit the bank for this.
Alex: Do you think that's-
Eli: What else is there?
God, of all the days to be late, why does it have to be today?
Of course, of course she got hung up on the Davidson merger. She didn't know why she'd told Digg she'd be home by six. “It's got to be done by Monday,” her boss had said, “It's gonna be all hands on deck!” His hands had left the deck shortly after lunch. Her's, and everyone else in the proofing department, stayed until 5:30.
Felicity puffed out an irritated breath in the chilly night air and brought her chapped and freezing hands up to her mouth.
And her mittens? MIA. Of course they were. What a day.
She sprinted across the street, keeping a keen eye open for Mr. Diggle's car. She didn't see the big Mercedes lurking anywhere on her block and had her first easy breath in two hours.
Awesome. He's not here yet.
Felicity waved to Mrs. Lee through the steamy ground floor shop window as she crossed under the store's striped awning. She stamped her boots against the stoop outside the building's main door. Both to ward the cold away and keep her blood pumping as she rummaged through her giant purse for her keys to the security door. “Dammit,” she muttered, “Not the keys,” as her fingers skipped over the edge of her phone (drained battery, ugh), “Also, not the keys,” as her fingers connected with her eye glasses case, “God, they're probably where ever my mittens are.”
She would later blame the dim light in the vestibule for why she didn't see anyone on the other side of the (mostly glass) door. She would also blame the numbness in her toes for why she stumbled off the stoop when said door banged open from the inside revealing her brothers' friend, Mr. Johns.
“Why hello Ms. Smoak,” he said with a smile, stepping to the side to hold the door for her. “I trust you are well this evening.” The cool leather of his glove made brief contact with her lower back as her guided her past the threshold of the building.
“Yes, I'm fine. Thank you... sir,” she added hastily. She was always unsure how to act around this particular friend of her brothers'. All the rest were a little rough, but Tommy was always so polished, so professional.
“And your brothers?” he prompted, “How are they?”
“They are well as... well.” Felicity pinched her lips together, and briefly closed her eyes. “I've got to be going, sir. I'm sorry, but it's been a very long week.”
“Of course,” he said in that silky voice. “Give them my best.”
Felicity dashed up the stairs to her apartment, past the flickering greenish bulb dangling in the hall and hastily unlocked scarred wooden door to her studio. She inhaled that first comforting breath of home. Vague dampness, old carpet, and dusty plaster. But it was overlaid with something different. Oil, and salt, and men's cologne, which could only mean...
“Mr. Diggle,” She said with a forced smile “I wasn't anticipating you being here. Well, that's not true, I was anticipating you here, just not in here. In my apartment? That's not true either. I was not anticipating you in my apartment without me being in it as well. Which means you broke in?” Her voice rose on that last sentence. “Who let you in? This is a secure building!”
“No it isn't,” came a voice she wasn't familiar with, “I picked the outside door with a glasses screwdriver.”
“Well,” stuttered Felicity, unnerved at not one, but two people in her apartment, “it's the principle of the thing, it's-”
“Ms. Smoak,” Digg interrupted, “the principle of the thing isn't going to keep you safe, and neither is this building.”
“Great, now he's a comedian,” Felicity muttered, shoving her glasses up her nose, and tucking a wayward strand of hair behind her ear.
“I tried to call you, but you didn't answer. My associate, Mr. Harper, and I decided it was in the best interest of your well being to enter your abode without your permission.”
She blew out a long breath. “My phone died I can usually get home sooner to charge it, but tonight wasn't that night. I'm sorry.”
“Hey,” Diggle smiled and laid a comforting hand on her shoulder, “there is no need for apologies. Roy and I were happy to wait.” Roy looked distinctly less than happy about waiting. “We'll get out of your way, so you can pack up and we can go, ok? Don't forget your phone charger.”
Felicity let out a (fairly undignified) snort-giggle. “Yeah, I certainly wouldn't want to forget that.”
The other man (Roy apparently) stood up from where he'd been lounging by her bed-nook, “Digg, there isn't any place to get out of her way too. Unless you want to wait in the hall?”
“The kitchen,” Felicity piped up, “pretty sure I'm not going to need anything from over there.”
“What kitchen?” Roy asked.
Felicity rolled her eyes, “That kitchen!” She pointed to one wall of her unit fully equipped with a mini-fridge, two cabinets, a hot plate and the tiniest bar sink the plumber had in the back of his van.
“I'm almost positive,” Roy said shuffling towards the mini-fridge, “That this doesn't meet the legal code for a kitchen. Actually I'm pretty sure nothing in this apartment meets any code at all, ever. There isn't even a sink in the bathroom.”
“There's a sink in the kitchen,” Felicity shot back, a smile tugging at the corner of her mouth. “How many sinks does one person need?”
“Are all the apartments in the building like this?” Digg asked.
Felicity glanced back over her shoulder, “I don't have any idea. There's only the three apartments in the building.”
She was fully focused on shoving clothes, chargers, and various bits of tech into her duffel bag or she would have notice the frown creasing John's face. “There's five floors. How big are these other two apartments?”
Felicity had ducked into the bathroom to (rather haphazardly) toss toiletries into her overnight bag. “The first floor is the Lee's store, the next two floors are all self storage units, the other unit on this floor is vacant, and I don't know who lives up stairs, but I never see them.”
She didn't, however, miss the look of surprise Roy shot to Diggle.
“I admit it!” she exclaimed throwing her hands into the air, “I am the terrible scourge of the renting class! I work long hours, and I don't know my neighbors!”
She tugged her mittens out form under her pillow (she'd forgotten she'd slept in them last night). And turned to the pair of men in her kitchen as she wound a second scarf around her neck. “Ok that's everything. Phones, check. Chargers, check. Tablet, check. I'm ready when you are. What are you doing to my window?” Her question was aimed at Roy, who was prying up the fire escape access just off her 'dining room'.
Diggle held her hand as he guided her out the window. “Whoever is after you needs to think you're sticking to your routine, and your Friday night routine is to stay in.”
“Right, so out the window it is.”
“Plus,” Roy called up to her from the ground (damn he was fast), “it wouldn't be good for Mr. Queen to be associated with this neighborhood.”
“I guess not,” Felicity said as she cast her eyes back over the half rotted windows and crumbling brick.
She tossed her duffel down to Roy before dropping from the bottom rung of the ladder to the pavement of the alley way below. She felt his hand against her elbow to steady her. “Thanks,” she said a genuine smile on her lips.
“Oh my God, look at that,” Diggle said in disbelief as he landed next to them, “Roy, she's another person you are taller than.” He passed his hand from the top of Felicity's head to the top of Roy's. “At least by like... half an inch.” Diggle smirked, placed his hand on the small of Felicity's back and began to escort her down the alley way.
“Dude!” Roy called out to their retreating forms, “Totally not fair! She's in BOOTS!”
Diggle's laugh followed them all the way down the alley to Billson Ave. where he'd parked the town car.