This week’s scene has Renee on her way to assist Frei with Hartmann… hope you enjoy.
My thoughts: Renee’s courage is definitely hereditary and her losses and her difficult strained relationship with her mother always feeds her insecurity. In Full Circle she has to fight against that every step of the way. Some readers don’t like Renee much because she is sensitive and scarred but I love her courage, the love she has for Frei and Aeron, and that she is still a very warm, humble and insecure person even when she is probably one of the most elite agents and soldiers with a proud record of saving POIs!
In this scene, I get to start showing the little breadcrumbs and threads that have been linked all the way through the series through Commander Renee Black…
Full Circle exclusive.
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Renee sat in the plush surrounding of Frei’s plane, Frei’s mom, Stosur easing them in a circular pattern as they waited to be given clearance to land. She was relieved to be doing something useful because, although she’d fitted together the separate breadcrumbs her dad had left behind on Black Ridge Mountain, she didn’t know what they were supposed to do.
Outside the window, the beautiful swathes of green forest peeked up at them through the clouds. She didn’t feel any sense of comfort from it. She’d lived in Hartmann’s household for nearly two years as her, what?, had she been a girlfriend to Hartmann? She hadn’t been a mistress. It confused her why a woman like Hartmann who could have any mistress she liked would have been so open to Renee intruding on her privacy.
Renee fiddled with the breadcrumb, checking for something that would tell her what to do with it. It looked like a plastic, multi-pronged… well… spider with a hump on its back. It was a cute spider though. Aeron would probably talk to it and stroke its back. Renee stroked it just to visualize Aeron smiling.
“Colonel Charles Black, Criminal Investigations Group, statement of investigation,” her dad’s voice fired at her.
Renee raised her eyebrows. The sound of his voice made her hands shake and she fought not to drop the breadcrumb. “Dad?”
“The mountain is bettering us. I’m critically injured and my sole focus is getting Matt down to safety.” He grunted like his wounds were stealing his breath. “Bess, I know you’ll find your way to this and I’m sorry. Yeah… you heard me, Charlie is admitting I’m the biggest idiot… I’m so sorry.”
Renee put her hand over her mouth. He sounded so close to tears.
“I should have told you. I couldn’t. You’d lost the baby and I was stupid and stubborn but I swear I’ve never stopped loving you.” He sighed, then took a deep breath. “I need you to tell Matt and Renee that I love them…” He growled in the way she knew she did when she was frustrated. “I need you to tell that grumpy excuse for a woman I love her too…” He sighed again. “I hope you all know that anyway.”
“I knew… I know,” Renee whispered, tears bubbling up. The trees outside disappeared behind a bank of cloud and the plane bounced with the turbulence.
“You lost the baby and we weren’t… I felt responsible. I am responsible for that and the POIs came to me for help. You have to understand that when she told me they’d lost their child, that they’d been kidnapped, I had to help.” He clunked something and groaned. “I hate these things, you and your stupid inventions.”
Renee smiled. Didn’t surprise her that Bess had invented them now her dad had said it. Who else would name a high-tech military gadget after something used in baking.
“So they come to me and she’s crying because they took the kid. I couldn’t get a whole load of sense out of them because I couldn’t speak French like you.” He grunted to himself and muttered something about Bess being “too clever and always right” then sighed like he was trying not to cry. “I didn’t understand what they were trying to say only that the kid got taken and I couldn’t stand someone else grieving the way I watched you grieve.” He mumbled something too quietly to hear. “I… I’m sorry I was a stupid fool. I wanted to make it right for her instead.”
Renee smiled. It sounded like her dad took Bess losing a child personally. She could hear the warmth in his voice even with his injuries.
“Thing was, the POIs were crazy. What I did understand, made no sense and without you to help me figure it out, I just didn’t know what to make of it.” He clunked something. Sounded like he was smacking a rock to something hollow and metal. “I found the kid, I found her years too late to fix anything and she seemed alright.” He laughed in a sad way. “She wasn’t alright. I just didn’t see it. I walked straight into the most obvious trap. You’d throttle me but you know… I’m not sorry I tried to help her.”
Renee leaned onto her free hand and bit on her knuckle. Why had he tried to help someone without telling Bess? She was his commanding officer. Why would do that?
“I told you what I wanted to do when I saw you… and I’m glad you told me straight. You’re an amazing woman.” He cleared his throat. Renee cocked her head. Sounded like her dad had a soft spot for Bess? “Bess, I went crawling back and learned a whole lot of truths I needed to… but now I’ve dragged Matt into it and even with one of the POIs trying to help, and I swear she is, Bess… I swear she’s trying to pick them off the best she can but even working together with her, there’s too many.” He sniffed then cleared his throat. “But we’re trying. She can’t make her move or they’ll know she’s working with me.”
Renee glanced up at the cockpit as Stosur lowered the plane. That was the woman who Matt mentioned, who Aeron had seen up on the mountain. A POI?
“What were you doing?” She muttered at the breadcrumb as her dad tried to catch his breath. “You know the rules. You went through boot camp. You never ever go out on your own. You never run any assignment without your commanding officer knowing.” She rubbed at the brimming tears. “Dad, no POI should ever be in that position.”
“I can hear your heckling,” her dad said like he expected to be berated. “I know you put those rules in place. You were right to but I didn’t listen to you as much as I should have and now I’ve made a mess you’re going to have to fix.” He sighed. “The guy following is called Bucher. That’s what the POI calls him anyhow. Said that’s his nickname. She told me they name them by what their expertise is.”
Renee dropped the breadcrumb, a piece dropped out, and scrambled to catch it before it slid down the plane. Bucher. That couldn’t be a coincidence, could it?
Stosur touched them down and the force of the airbrakes made Renee’s heart squeeze.
“Are you alright?” Stosur asked as she shut off the engine and wandered into the cabin.
“My dad was killed on the mountain,” she mumbled not sure why she was saying it. Stosur knew as much. “Matt was killed.” She rubbed at her tears. “He said the man following him was called Bucher.”
“Isn’t that the surname of the man who attacked you?” Stosur perched next to her and took her hand.
“Yes, but… he…” She couldn’t even manage the name. “He wouldn’t have been old enough. He was younger than me… I think.” She tried to stifle her tears. “No, Dad said that a POI had told him they called him Bucher as a nickname.”
Stosur pulled her mouth to the side. “Why use the French term for it?”
Renee chewed on her lip and pocketed the breadcrumbs. “I don’t know but… he… the guy who…” She breathed through the wobble in her voice. “He was French… Dad said they named people by expertise.”
Stosur’s eyes filled with worry. “That sounds like a slave.”
“Yes,” Renee clung onto her hand. “Yes, and Dad was trying to find the POI’s child… without telling Bess. He said they were chasing him… I think… because he’d walked into a trap.”
“Target what is most precious to draw out the treasure,” Stosur said it with every hurt her own family had been through. “Slave owner tactic.”
Renee got to her feet if only not to dissolve into tears. “He said he was stupid.” She shook her head, tears bubbling in spite of her fussing over pulling her pack from stowage. “But he couldn’t have known. How would he know what would happen to him or who he was going after?”
“Slaves are very unwilling to talk to those who are not in our society.” Stosur caught her by the hand and pulled her into a hug. “They would have been unable to tell him. It takes… it would take a trust, a love, a patience that broke every chain they had.”
Renee met her eyes. “Urs told Aeron she was a slave. She never told me.”
“She told Aeron first because she needed her help and I believe Ursula rescued you from a slave owner and so must have presumed you knew.” Stosur smiled at her. “Telling someone is not always done in words, yes?”
“I know… I just mean… it took Aeron to get it out of Urs… because to her, Aeron had been a captive as much as her.” Renee pulled the pack onto her back. “So why would a slave tell my dad that much and trust him enough to ask for help?”
“I do not know. It would be very unusual but I have met you and if you bear his personality then I can imagine why they would trust him.” Stosur carried her own pack off the plane and nodded to three kids who waved and hurried up the steps inside.
“I don’t think my personality does me any favors.” Renee stowed the pack in a waiting sports car and got into the passenger seat.
“I don’t understand why you say that.” Stosur fired up the car and sped them down the long stretch of tarmac out of the private airport. “You are pleasant and loyal.”
Renee managed a smile, feeling over the pocket where she’d placed the breadcrumbs. She needed to focus on Frei and helping her get information for Hartmann.
“You haven’t seen me in a mood,” she mumbled to herself more than Stosur and looked out at the surrounding forest. It may have been another continent, a German mountain range, but it smacked of a slave owner’s territory. Even the town with its beautiful chocolate box houses, a factory that looked to make flat-pack houses, and a quaint bar carried echoes of Hartmann’s ownership. Only her staff would have lived in the town itself, there would be a large building where all the slaves resided somewhere further from sight.
“No, but I believe Hartmann has and she only grew more fond of you.” Stosur managed a cheeky smile that Frei often flashed when she was teasing: Nonchalant with a flick of a blonde eyebrow.
“I think that was more to do with how low my top was.” Renee rolled her eyes then fixed her gaze on the road leading into the forest trying to push aside the thought of Bucher from her mind.