Hell Bound

Start by pulling him out of the fire and
hoping that he will forget the smell.
He was supposed to be an angel but they took him
from that light and turned him into something hungry,
something that forgets what his hands are for when they
aren’t shaking.

When is a monster not a monster?
Oh, when you love it.

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40. Chapter Forty

I didn’t bother to tell Graham that Bucky was back, just in case he didn’t come through on his promise to stick around. But I got a pizza anyway and listened to Graham tell me all about his first day. He was proud to inform me that he didn’t throw a single thing all day, and I promised to hold a mini-celebration if he made it through the month without throwing anything.

When we got home, my house appeared empty. I hid my disappointment and told myself he’d probably show up again later. I carried the pizza into the kitchen, and Graham followed after me, oblivious to the fact that I was looking for someone.

“And then I got an order for like twenty sandwiches,” Graham was telling me. I set the pizza down on the counter, went to reach for a plate, and then heard Graham gasp loudly from behind me. I turned around to find him leaning on the table with his hand over his heart. Bucky was standing in the doorway. “You scared the shit out of me!” Graham said. Bucky just glanced at him, but I could detect amusement.

“Good,” he decided.

“Hey, you stayed,” I noted. He nodded and turned back to me.

“I promised.”

“Why didn’t you tell me he was back?” Graham asked. I shrugged.

“I wanted to see him scare the shit out of you.” Bucky actually smiled that time. I turned back to the cupboard.

“Well, even though I just peed my pants a little, I’m glad you’re back,” Graham told him. “I was kind of growing to almost like you. Even though you think I’m a HYDRA guy.” I turned back around.

“He doesn’t think you’re a HYDRA guy.”

“He definitely thinks I’m a HYDRA guy.”

“I think he works for HYDRA,” Bucky confirmed. I groaned.

“He doesn’t work for HYDRA,” I replied.

“Well, this not HYDRA guy is starving,” Graham said as he came to my side to get a slice of pizza. “Oh no olives this time?”

“Bucky doesn’t like them. What happened with the guy and the twenty sandwiches?”

“Oh, I took forever to get the order filled. But he was super cool about it. Like, I had a lot of help, but I liked that I didn’t have the urge to throw the sandwiches at him, you know?”

“I’m glad to hear that. I hope you continue to experience the feeling of not wanting to throw things at people.”

“I’ll probably be sick of this shit in like a week, though.”

“Probably.” He took his plate and disappeared into the living room. Bucky was still standing in the exact same spot. "He’s not HYDRA,” I told him.

“No,” he agreed. “Maybe not yet.” I sighed again.

“He wouldn’t.”

“You don’t know that.”

“I do know that.”

“They could get to him just to get close to you.”

“You’re right. Maybe I should never make friends ever again for the rest of my life. Just in case.” I paused. “He’s not going to turn on me.”

“I don’t think you know him well enough to say that.”

“No, but I like to think I’m a decent judge of character.”

“You dated a guy who worked for HYDRA,” he reminded me. “While you were dating.” I turned back around to make him a plate.

“But see, I KNEW he was an asshole. So I still think that counts.”

“Then why did you date him?” He walked to my side and sounded genuinely interested in the answer. I just wasn’t sure what his motive was. Jealousy wasn’t really his thing, but I couldn’t figure out why else he would benefit from knowing the answer. I stuck a slice of pizza on a plate and handed it out to him.

“Because I was lonely, Bucky. Is that what you wanted to hear?” He took the plate and shook his head.

“No.”

“He was nice to me at first, okay? He was military. There was something off. But I was military too. I thought we might just be dealing with the same thing. It never occurred to me that he was working for HYDRA because at that point in time, HYDRA was just something I learned about in ninth grade history. He was the first person to show a genuine interest in me for a very long time. I held onto that instead of trusting my gut. But that weirdness was there, and it just got worse, I ended it before it went too far.”

“How long did it take?”

“Too long.”

“Then how do you know you can trust the kid?”

“Because the darkness I see in him isn’t violent. There’s no rage or anger. Just pain. He’s just a kid with no family. He lost everyone he loves. He’s suffering, and he masks it with humor.”

“What kind of darkness do you see in me?”

“I see both rage and pain. But you don’t use humor to mask it. You just run.”

“But you trust me?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“Because even though there’s darkness in you, I can see you moving toward the light. I can see that you want to. And your anger isn’t directed at me, or even Graham. Plus I think—I don’t know—maybe it just hurts a little less when you’re not alone.”

I got myself a plate and headed toward the living room before he could say anything.

After dinner, Bucky insisted that we needed to go over what he’d found while he was gone. So we excused ourselves to my bedroom and sat down on my bed to go over the papers he’d compiled. He had the book, the notebook, and numerous different pieces of paper all representing different sections of code.

“The first few words were easy once I got the vowels,” he explained as he set them out. “The code gets more complicated as it progresses. It evolves. The vowels get you started, but then it switches again. Each section of code hides a clue about the vowels in the next section. Not to mention, the coordinates scattered through the code makes things confusing. There’s no warning for them.”

“What do you think the coordinates are for?” I asked. I looked over the papers, but nothing popped out at me.

“I’m not sure. I wanted to dig, but I was right next to a busy highway. Even at night, it was too noticeable. The warehouse in New York was empty. I can’t say whether or not there’s anything buried. I’ll have to get my hands on more equipment. I just can’t say that it would be worth it.”

“What’s your hunch?”

“What makes you think I have a hunch?” I gave him a look.

“You always have a hunch.”

“I think the coordinates are significant to Russell specifically. The side of the highway in Ohio, an abandoned warehouse in New York, a church in Sokovia.”

“I don’t understand.”

“One of the other words I managed to pull out using the same pattern I used to find your name, was Beata Frindt. There’s more on her than there is on Beata Weisberg.”

“What did you find?”

“She was born in Sokovia.”

“You know my grandparents were from Sokovia too, right?”

“I know that. I think that he either went back, or he was stationed there for a period of time. There’s a possibility they both worked with Sokovian Intelligence briefly. I don’t know why the church is significant to him. Maybe they were married there. Maybe it’s where they met. Her trail ends abruptly. The only record I can find is that she was associated with a private research company called IGH. There’s nothing on them at all, but I think I know where they were located.”

“In Hell’s Kitchen.”

“Yes.”

“And the highway in Ohio?” He hesitated again and fiddled with some papers instead of answering. I waited patiently.

“The highway passes through Cleveland. Not far from the overpass where she jumped. The exact coordinates are about thirty minutes out of the city. She was covered in blood when I found her. Likely hemorrhaging. I think the coordinates represent—where you were born.”

“On the side of a highway?” I questioned.

“Yes.” I shook my head.

“What makes you think that?”

“Because they were on the run. Russell wouldn’t have taken her to a hospital. They must have already made the plan to take you to his sister. She likely went into labor while they were still on the run. Russell would have been capable of handling the delivery. They were already headed toward the city, she left you with him and distracted us so that he could get you to safety. The autopsy would have indicated there was a child, especially if she was still hemorrhaging when she died. By the time they figured it out, you were already hidden. Russell’s alias had no association with Ivan Weisberg at the time. They wouldn’t have known.”

“Beata was married to him.” He shook his head.

“Frindt was her maiden name. Weisberg was my suspicion. Not her legal name. They both used aliases. The Daryl Russell alias had no association with Beata’s aliases. Probably for that reason.”

“Then how can you be sure Daryl Russell and Ivan Weisberg are the same person?” He looked at me again.

“I just am.”

“In that dream I had—when I was being questioned—they were asking for his name. I don’t think I knew what they meant.”

“They must have suspected him. They were probably trying to find you. They wouldn’t have expected him to keep you so close.”

“None of this makes any sense.”

“I don’t know. I don’t have all the answers. All I can do is speculate.”

“And you still think he’s my father?” I asked him.

“I’m certain that he is.” I sighed, and he reached out to put his hand on my shoulder. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine. It’s not your fault. Just kind of overwhelming. And confusing.”

“I understand.” I leaned forward on the bed and rubbed my eyes. “Do you want to go to sleep?” I nodded.

“Yeah.”

“I’ll get this put away.”

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