On the sleeper express back to Moscow, I noticed a strange man spending an awful lot of time next to my compartment. I thought that was odd and decided to check if I was just being paranoid or that I was indeed being followed. I pretended to head to the restroom, but instead, slipped into the connector area between two carriages. There, I stood quietly in the corner, waiting, as a woman in a silk robe opened the door into the restroom and went in.
I could see through the glass screen that the man followed me along the narrow passage and pretended that he was waiting his turn. A couple of minutes later, the woman in a robe came out and went inside the carriage. The man looked surprised and quickly dashed inside to check that I wasn't hiding somewhere, which obviously was impossible, since these accommodations are so incredibly tiny.
I watched, as he re-emerged into the corridor, throwing confused glances in both directions, trying to figure out which way I could've disappeared. At that moment, I opened the connector door and casually walked past him as if I'd just returned from visiting another carriage. The man seemed to relax and slowly followed me back.
I went inside my compartment and locked the door. There was no doubt – I was being followed, and very sloppily at that. But by whom? I didn't want to think it was Alexei who sent this idiot. No, it wasn't him. He'd definitely send someone brighter. But if it wasn't him, then who? Could it be my tricky hostess, Duchess Vera? All this was starting to sound like a nightmarish spy movie.
Once we reached Moscow, I got off the train and headed for the train station exit. The plan was to dissolve into the passenger crowd that arrived together with me from St. Petersburg and then, when my crowd merged with the crowds spilling from other trains, try and lose this unpleasant tail. I felt like a genuine spy, maneuvering between the throngs of people, changing directions and pausing behind a kiosk that sold newspapers and snacks in order to check up on my tail. After that, with one last glance around and despite myself enjoying this new game, I headed towards a side exit instead of the main station entrance, confident that I lost the unwanted company.
I was so proud of myself that I didn't notice two men shadowing my every move to perfection. When I was about to reach the exit, an inconspicuous door opened in the nearby wall, the two men smoothly took me by the elbows and dragged silently to that door. Everything happened so fast that by the time I opened my mouth to scream, the door already shut with a thud and we emerged into a long corridor, which they quickly dragged me through. On the other side of the corridor, behind another door, I saw a back alley where a large van with darkened windows and running motor awaited our arrival.
The third man emerged out of the van and, disregarding my loud protests, slipped a hood over my face. My breathing was unobstructed, but I couldn't see a thing. I tried to kick and scream as they lifted me into the van and seated me inside. When I punched one of them, I heard a crunch, accompanied by a yelp and a swear. After that, they tied my wrists and feet.
“I am a US citizen and an accredited journalist!” I said. “I demand that you let me go immediately, whoever you are, unless you want a big international scandal on your hands!”
There was no answer.
“I demand that you let me go immediately!” I said again - louder. Still, no reaction.
I filled my lungs with as much air as I could and yelled: “Help, help! I've been kidnapped!” I don't know who I hoped would hear me, as we were moving through the city at a very high speed, judging by how the van swayed and screeched on turns. But I couldn't just sit and take it on the chin. I had to do something! I had to resist this violence!
“Please, Ms. Snow, don't scream,” said one of my kidnappers politely. “Otherwise, we'll be forced to gag you too, and we'd really like to avoid that.”
I fell silent, trying to make sense of these words. Who were these well-mannered kidnappers? I asked myself. But at that moment, the van apparently arrived at its destination, because after a quick exchange with a guard, we drove into what seemed like a courtyard. The door opened, my feet were untied and I was helped out of the vehicle. Then, I was carefully led inside and seated in a comfortable armchair. After that, the hood came off and I saw myself in a large and rather stylish room, with plush sofas and chairs and a coffee table, set with tea and pastry.
The man who stood by the window, came into view. He wore a well-tailored grey suit and a frown. He looked me top to bottom and said, pointing at my tied hands, “Is this really necessary?”
“Sorry, Comrade General,” said one of my kidnappers sheepishly, as another one hastily untied me. “We had to, she punched Andrei on the nose. I heard a crack myself. Hopefully, it isn't broken. I sent him to see the doctor.”
“Punched on the nose? Understandably,” responded the General with a sly grin. “You'd punch too, if you were being kidnapped.”
Then, he approached me, his arms open wide in the traditional disarming gesture of famed Russian hospitality. He said, smiling, “I sincerely apologize for the way we had to bring you in, Ms. Snow. I am sure, when you hear about our reasons, you'll understand and won't fault us.” Then, he took my hand and kissed it.
I yanked my hand out of his fingers. “I am not interested in this show, General, or whoever you are,” I said furiously. “I am not accustomed to being kidnapped and if you think I am going to melt just because you've kissed my hand, you are in for a big disappointment.”
“Ha, ha, ha. You are exactly, as he described,” he said, rubbing his hands in delight. "Exactly!"
“I demand that you let me go immediately,” I said coldly, wondering, who was the he, the General was referring to, “otherwise I'll contact the American Embassy and your government will have a big scandal on its hands!"
The door opened and another - tall and athletic - man stepped in.
“Come in, come in,” said the General with the same broad smile. “Look, who we have here.”
The man moved into the light and my jaw dropped…
To find out what happens next, read mystery/thriller GOLD TRAIN!
Read Excerpt 1: Dramatic Prologue
Read Excerpt 2: Jade & Alexei - Love Scene in St. Petersburg
Back to Gold Train page
Copyright 2011-2012 Lada Ray. All rights reserved