Deep voices, splintered wood, the stampede of heavy footed men storming my apartment. Oleander uttered a high, terrified shriek that ruptured reason. Don’t fuck with my dove.
I grabbed the knife from under my pillow and launched into the living room screaming, “Umreti! Umreti! Umreti!” I probably appeared feral, eyes wide, teeth bared, hair in a tangled mass about my shoulders. Anger crept up my throat, or was it fear that strangled me? Either way, I could feel it in my blood, the unhealthy mixture of being rudely awoken and the wrath directed at anyone who would dare cause Oleander distress.
“Ma’am,” a man barked at me, “put the weapon on the ground now. Hands above your head.”
English? Why would he speak the English? Blue uniforms speckled with snowflakes, guns aimed at my head. American policemen carry guns. I couldn't think what American law enforcement would want with me.
Maybe America teamed up with Interpol? No, I’m not even on Interpol’s radar. Unless someone sold me out. Last time I checked, Kristijan was the only one of us on the list, but maybe they’ve all been arrested by now.
Think, Senka, think. What did my father say to do in a raid?
Step 1: Remain calm.
Step 2: Comply.
What did they want me to do? Oh right, put the knife down. Knife on the ground, hands behind my head, but their guns were still trained on me and I was trembling like thin ice underfoot. Calm down calm down calm down.
Look at the snowfall, focus on the guns.
Guns are more calming. Heckler & Koch USP. Dunya said H&Ks were always good, so they must be good because Dunya was the ethnic Serb, ex-sniper I met in Sarajevo. My father told me I didn’t want to go around befriending arms dealers, but why not? A pocketful of diamonds and I could buy whatever pistol I wanted.
There were four of them and they were destroying my apartment. “What you are looking for?” I asked the officer who kept watch over me, H&K trained at my cranium. “Maybe I help you find?”
His expression read, “What kind of idiot are you,” but he said, “I can’t let you, ma’am. You might try to destroy the narcotics.”
The officer asked the same questions as they did in customs, to which I respond with the same answers as I did in customs. He looked at my Visa (completely true), Oleander’s certificate (mostly true), my gun license (completely fraudulent but looks legit because Marko made it).
He eyed me suspiciously when I told him I was here on sabbatical. Who in their right mind would visit this dump? I sighed. “I am evading a dangerous crime lord.”
At least half true.
I’d always been under the impression that Vladan was involved in harvesting and trafficking human organs. His fridge was always full of carefully packaged kidneys, hearts, livers. He was the most terrifying man I’d ever met, but, honor among thieves, so I let him be.
The night we broke Kristijan out of prison, Vladan looked at me and then to my father. “How much?” he’d asked. My father cut off his ear and decided he’d had enough. The syndicate was dead. His trusted confidants would sell me on the black market. It was time for me to go.
Step 3: Act sweet. My father said my eyes were so wide and innocent and clear, people couldn’t help but believe whatever I said. So do whatever it takes to throw them off.
“My bird,” I whimpered and I think the officer pitied me. He ordered another to release Oleander. “Doves are not have connection with stranger,” I warned but he didn’t listen. Oleander turned into a flurry of feathers and beak and talons.
The man managed to escape with a hole in his lip and a few puncture wounds oozing blood below his eyes.
They quickly pulled out, apologizing awkwardly, finding nothing relevant to their search. One secured my door and offered to fix the lock later, pitying the poor girl afraid for her life with nothing but a diamond dove for companionship.
I couldn’t go back sleep, so I took to prowling the halls, clutching my knife. Some girl had decided to take a nap in the stairwell, so I drew a heart on her forehead in lipstick and laughed. They didn’t find a single diamond.