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December 13, 2000
“It looks like our best bet is the airport at
,” Josh determined before
looking up at everybody else. “If you think that someone is watching Vardo, Norway Murmansk pretty closely,
that’s really our only close option, although Luostari is around 300 km from
there by road.”
“How far is that in miles?” May questioned with concern.
“That’s a little over 200 miles,” Snake mumbled distractedly while finding Vardo on the map. “Looks like we would have to take the E105, crossing the border at Nikel.”
“I’ve heard the border is easier to get across than it used to be,” Josh added with concern on his face, “But you have to have a good reason for being there…or a bribe.”
“Bribes are no problem Josh,” Raven said with a smile as she stood to fill her cup. “If that’s the only thing we have to worry about…”
“You wouldn’t be able to bring in weapons,” Josh added quickly, “Not even with a bribe.”
Snake smiled, “I’ll have that covered by the time we get there. My old friend Anton is working on it as we speak.”
Josh blew out a breath nervously. Not knowing that Abby had been abducted until they told him when he arrived, he was extremely worried about her. He was also very determined to do everything he could to help get her back.
“I need to do some research to arrange a car once we get there,” Josh added as he stood from the table. “I’m not sure how big Vardo is, or how many options we will actually have once we arrive.”
Raven reached for her purse. “Let me give you a credit card to reserve something,” she started before Snake clasped her hand gently as she was removing the wallet.
“We don’t want to do that,” he explained in a calm voice, “We don’t know who’s keeping tabs on what, so anything we do needs to be deceptive and paid for in cash.”
Looking back at Josh, Snake hesitated, thinking for a moment before speaking. “If you can’t reserve anything without a card we’ll have to play it by ear once we get there, but I have another question. How easy is it going to be to get there without anyone knowing it’s us?”
Josh gave that some thought. “It’s not like anyone checks on who boards a private jet, so we could easily file a manifest with bogus names. As far as the fight plan, I have to file one, and it has to be to an actual destination.”
“Unless you want to try flying over four thousand miles under the radar again,” Josh asked with a smile, referring to their flight into
the year before. This quickly brought a smile to everyone’s face.
“Our best bet is to file a flight plan to someplace on the way to Vardo, then amend it once we get close. Four unknown people flying to someplace in
Germany shouldn’t draw too much
suspicion to anyone that cares to look. By the time we get to Europe,
we should be pretty well out of anyone’s thoughts.”
Snake nodded, “How soon can we leave?”
Josh gave it some thought, “If I leave now, we could be wheels up in two hours.”
Snake glanced back at May and Raven, who both nodded emphatically.
“Let’s do that then,” Snake replied, glancing back toward Josh. “I’ll look into the transportation. Unfortunately, with such short notice we’ll all have to use our own passports. There’s no time to have new ones made.”
“Won’t they be able to track them too?” Raven asked worriedly.
“Yes, but not nearly as quick as a credit card. We’ll probably be there and gone before anyone would realize we had even left.”
Nodding in understanding, Josh turned toward the door, stopping after only a couple of steps and turning back toward the others with concern on his face. “We are going to get them back…right?”
Snake nodded, moving to the younger man and placing a hand on his shoulder. “You bet we will Josh,” Snake answered, his eyes now locked on Josh’s. “We’re just the backup team anyway. There are a lot of talented people looking into this already.”
Nodding in relief, Josh turned on his heel and made his way out the door.
Snake stood there looking after him before turning toward the ladies. “Ok, we need to be at the airport in two hours, can you two handle that time frame?”
Nodding, they both rose from the table. “We need to make a quick trip to the house, Snake,” Raven mentioned as she approached him. “Then we can come back and pick up May.”
Turning toward her friend, she saw that May had stopped in the middle of the floor with a worried look on her face.
“What’s wrong May?” Raven asked with concern.
May glanced up, shaking her head, looking befuddled.
“I just remembered something,” she replied, shaking her head once again. “I don’t know how it could have slipped my mind.”
“Whatever it is May,” Snake soothingly reassured her, “I’m sure we can figure something out. What’d you forget?”
Taking a deep breath and letting it out before she spoke in a shaky voice, “I forgot about Ya Su!”
December 13, 2000
May wasn’t the only one thinking about the infant at that moment.
Having just woken up in the dingy hotel, it was the first thing that crossed Abby’s mind when she opened her eyes.
Sighing sadly, she sat up and swung her feet to the floor. Although love of her family would spur her on to survive, she knew she couldn’t risk thinking about them too much if she was going to be effective in getting out of this mess.
She needed to focus on the task at hand!
And she had decided what that task was…at least the first one. She would try and get out of the city and away from whoever may be after her and then see if she could get in touch with anyone. Not knowing who it was that was even looking for her, she reasoned that any of the phone numbers she knew may also be known by those people, who may be able to trace the call back to her. The farther away from the city she was, the better her chances of calling someone without being traced.
When she did get the chance to call, she would try the house first and hopefully talk to May and ask about her daughter before getting in touch with McGruder. If May hadn’t heard from anyone she would be worried anyway…and if she had then Abby would try to connect with them.
Feeling better at having a plan, she started getting dressed, turning her nose up at the aroma emanating from her clothes. Old grease, beer and sweat took her mind instantly back to the decrepit bar.
“New clothes first,” she determined, “Then get out of the city!”
“You’ve news of McGruder?” Noon Byrk questioned immediately when she connected the call.
“Nyet,” Ivan replied succinctly. “There is no indication that he is here…he is, how you say…into the wind?”
Noon was about to correct him when Ivan uttered another, more immediate concern.
“The woman may have escaped.”
Ivan cringed as he spoke it, knowing the white-haired bitch would be furious.
“Explain!” she spat into the phone, terse as always.
“There was a fire, Gregor’s place burned to the ground. I bribed one of the firemen to let me look around…so far they have found only Gregor’s body…”
“Use your contacts,” Noon ordered with a firm yet even voice. “Put people at the airport and the train terminal…the bus lines too. Contact your friends in the Taxi union…she will be trying to get out of town.”
“I will do as you suggest moy Rukovoditel, but they may yet find her body. Gregor was a bear of a man; he would not be overcome so easily.”
“She is McGruder’s operative,” Noon Byrk hissed, “She would have the requisite skills…it was a mistake to ignore that fact.”
And it was your mistake, Ivan added to himself before speaking again.
“My friends throughout the city will find her, although their eyes would be much sharper should there be a prize for their efforts?”
The line was silent for a few moments. Ivan knew she was seething at his suggestion.
“Put a bounty on her head then…anyone that finds her I’ll pay them 50,000 rubles.”
“Very generous moy Rukovoditel, I will spread the word.”
“And Ivan” Noon continued with a calm coldness, “That’s alive…or dead.”
Nodding at her statement, he hung up before she could say anything else, shivering at the iciness of her last words.
Ivan immediately got busy making the calls needed to ensnare the woman. He knew many people, and they in turn knew many more.
Someone would find the little bitch…her time on this earth was now extremely limited!
Abby stepped out onto the crowded sidewalk and put on her new sunglasses, effectively hiding her most prominent Asian feature. It was the final touch of her disguise.
Finding a secondhand shop after leaving the hotel, she had easily changed her looks with her new purchases. Heavy tan, canvas work pants a size or two too large had added ten to fifteen pounds to her looks, as did the several layers of sweaters and long underwear she had piled onto her body. Heavily insulated boots and the wool socks she had chosen for her feet made them feel warm for the first time since she had escaped. Topping it all off with a heavy cotton coat and a navy knit hat, she now looked like a lowly construction worker heading to the job.
She was hoping it was enough.
Although the clothes hadn’t cost her a great deal, she was acutely aware of her limited funds dwindling down with each purchase that she made. Thankfully, the shop’s owner had given her a little credit for her old clothes when he found out she was going to leave them there.
Starting down the sidewalk, she gave some thought to how she would escape the city. If she assumed that all of the normal transportation routes were being watched, she would have to come up with a new idea to obtain transportation.
Her first thought went to stealing a car, although she wasn’t overly confident about her skills at hotwiring one. She had done it before of course…back in
Vietnam. Although never a member of
a gang, she had nevertheless folded to peer-pressure a few times when someone
dared her to do it.
Of course, it fit right in to her persona as it was an exciting thing to do…the threat of getting caught and the freedom of traveling through the city in a car that wasn’t yours. But doing it on cars she had never seen before…and in a strange country to boot…
Glancing up from one of the autos she was considering, she almost ran into a group of people gathering on the sidewalk in front of her. Confused at what was going on, she started to work her way around the crowd when she caught sight of a sign in the window of the building next to her.
Stopping in her tracks, she read through the sign while her lips started to turn up in a smile.
“Yessss!” she whispered before making her way inside.
December 13, 2000
The snowshoes I found in the shed were older, but looked to be in relatively good shape. Made of laminated wood, the bowed sides anchored a spider web of heavy string inside of them. In the center of both were pieces of leather and leather strapping that would wrap around one’s boots to hold them on to the shoe.
I placed them close to the heater to melt off the accumulated ice before checking on Preacher once again. He seemed to be resting comfortably at the moment…but for how long?
My find had initiated a spark in my mind…a new idea to contemplate.
Maybe we could walk out of here!
As soon as I verbalized the thought, it sounded ridiculous.
I didn’t even know where we were…or how far away we were…from anything.
I could travel in any direction…but to guess wrong…
I sighed as I sat down facing the heater, closing my eyes to concentrate.
I reasoned that going north was out of the question…the likelihood of any kind of humanity dwindled the farther north one went.
South of course seemed the most obvious choice…but the stash of supplies had been to the east. Of course, that could have been just be a ploy…a misdirection instigated by the Russian on the phone.
Giving that some added thought; I reasoned that it was an unlikely ruse to stash supplies a mile away in the wrong direction.
After all…bad guys liked to be warm too!
They would be in a hurry to get back to wherever they came from…their camp or a vehicle.
I found myself nodding my head when the decision finally firmed itself in my mind.
We would go east…at least as far as where I had found the supplies. Once there, I would make the decision whether to proceed or to turn back.
Settling on a plan, I stood and started preparing for the journey. Immediately doubts started entering my mind…but I squashed them down and concentrated instead on gathering the most needed of the supplies we would be carrying with us.
There was always a reason not to do something, and it was usually the easier of any of the choices at your disposal.
But in my mind…to wait was to die. Maybe this was an asinine idea, to try to walk out of our arctic prison…but at least I would be doing something. If we were slated to freeze to death, let it happen sooner rather than later.
“We’re going on a trip old buddy,” I spoke to Preacher as I moved the sled beside his pallet bed. “We’ll either get you some help…or freeze to death in the process.”
Pulling off his blanket and spreading it out on the sled, I grabbed a fistful of coat in each hand, ready to move him when his hand gripped one of my wrists with an amazing strength.
Opening his eyes, he looked at me determinedly, licking his lips in an effort to say something.
Leaning closer to his face, “What is it Preacher?”
Licking his lips again and taking in a deep breath, his voice was soft but strong as he spoke.
“Full fucking steam ahead.”
Copyright 2015 J.T. Lewis
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