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Part of The Adventures Of Gabriel Celtic
December 14, 2000
“Ten dol-lars A-mer-i-can,” the driver had stated in halting English before agreeing to take us to
Unable to find any form of public transport running through the village, we had gladly accepted the offer to ride in the back of the truck filled with the carcasses of reindeer heading toward a processing plant. Apparently it was a delicacy in certain parts of the world.
Now we were defying gravity once again, thrown into the air off of the truck’s bed when it hit yet another pothole. Landing hard, we worked to pull the tarp around us to halt the icy wind trying to cut us in half. It had already happened some twenty times, and we had only left fifteen minutes before.
“If we had had the time, I would have handed over another ten dollars so that he could buy new shocks,” Preacher muttered from beside me.
I grinned despite our less-than optimal travel arrangements. “This is still nicer than it was a couple of days ago.”
“Hmmph,” Preacher grumped, “If you say so…I don’t remember much about it if you recall.”
I nodded in the darkness beneath the tarp.
“About that though,” Preacher started from beside me, “I never thanked you…for saving my life and all.”
“Yeah well,” I started, “At least I had someone to talk to…even though you didn’t say much in return.”
“I do remember fighting someone I think…right before they shot me. That may have been the loudest noise I’ve ever heard.”
“I wish we knew who had taken us…or why,” I replied, thinking again of Abby.
Was she ok?
And what of May and the baby, not to mention the little girl we had come to save in the first place? May had been one of the people I had tried to contact from the pay phone in Sputnik…both at the house and on her cell. That she hadn’t answered had given me yet another cause for panic.
I concentrated on pushing it down, along with the rest of my worries. We were in no position to help anybody…yet. But we were on the way to our fist chosen location, which was several steps up from where we were two days ago.
“Got any ideas what we do when we hit the big city?” Preacher questioned.
Pulling me from my reverie, I gave Preacher’s question some thought before answering.
“Try all of the phone numbers I know again first I think…maybe try and get a hold of one of my neighbors to check on May and the baby. Then I guess we hit the bars.”
Preacher snickered at my reply. “Yeah, there can’t be more than a couple hundred of them in a city the size of
Thinking of the daunting task ahead, I began to worry over how to find Abby…until the truck dropped out from underneath us once again.
December 15, 2000
Waking up slowly, Abby stretched luxuriously on the soft, warm bed.
Until she remembered where she was!
Shit, she mumbled as she rolled out of bed and reached for her clothing. Seeing the canvas pants and heavy coat, she scrunched her nose in disgust. Sighing, she finally reached for the pants and one of the shirts, leaving the rest of the layers of clothing on the chair beside the bed.
“She’s alive!” the stocky, dark-haired man with a bushy mustache exclaimed with feigned excitement when she exited the bedroom and entered the large living room of the suite.
“You want some breakfast?” the man continued, squinting at her with a face that Abby decided didn’t smile much.
“Sure Joe, thank you,” Abby replied, thankful for the coming nourishment.
Glancing around the room, her eyes landed next on the beautiful woman she had met the night before. Dressed in a smart business pants suit, she was concentrating on an old book on the table in front of her before looking up and giving Abby a smile.
“Good morning Abby,” Beth spoke from the sofa, “Sleep well?”
“Like a rock,” Abby exclaimed while crossing the room. “Whatcha working on Beth?”
Beth leaned back into the couch, shaking her head defeatedly. “I was attempting to decode this book, but I’ve given up. We’ll need to find someone to help with it I’m afraid.”
“Mind if I look?” Abby questioned as she moved toward the sofa.
“Be my guest,” Beth replied, scooting sideways to give Abby some room, the butt of her gun showing when her jacket slid back.
Sitting down, Abby slid the book closer to her and started studying it.
“Runes…interesting,” Abby muttered as she flipped slowly through the pages. Looking up suddenly, “Do you have an internet connection…a computer?”
Beth smiled at Abby’s sudden enthusiasm. “There’s a connection available…and we could have a computer here for you to use within the hour.”
Abby grinned, “Cool! I think I could make some headway on this if I can access the internet.”
“Really?” Beth asked surprised, “I’ll give Michael a call and have him bring one back.”
“Where are Michael and Patrick?” Abby asked, only then noticing that they were missing.
“Trying to track down that guy you shot yesterday,” Joe answered brusquely as he set a plate of bacon and eggs in front of her. “Nice shooting by the way.”
“Thanks!” Abby grinned while picking up the plate and forking some eggs into her mouth, “It felt good to shoot somebody!”
Beth filled the room with laughter, “I couldn’t agree more! I’m sometimes stuck in an office for days at a time. When I finally get out in the field, I just want to shoot the first person I see.”
“You’re not allowed to do that anymore,” Joe spoke sarcastically from the kitchen.
“Hey!” Beth replied defensively, “It only happened that one time…and he ended up being a bad guy didn’t he?”
Joe’s answering hmmph reminded Abby of Preacher. “The key phrase there is ended up being…you had no idea who he was when you shot him.”
“I was using my gut…like Michael taught me,” Beth countered, turning her head and winking at Abby. “Besides…you should talk Joe.”
“Pissant,” Joe replied sarcastically, setting a cup of coffee in front of Abby before taking a seat across the room with a cup of his own. “Everybody I’ve ever shot has deserved it.”
Abby could only grin as she lifted the cup of her coffee to her lips, enjoying the feel of the steaming liquid as it slid down her throat almost as much as the comradery in the room.
It reminded her of her relationship with Gabe, and the jabs they would frequently take at each other.
The thought saddened her.
“Has anyone heard from Gabe and Preacher yet?” she asked then, glancing back and forth between Joe and Beth.
Their faces told her the answer before either one spoke.
“Not yet,” Beth answered simply, “But no one’s given up yet.”
“What she said,” Joe added evenly before taking another swallow of coffee, seeming uncomfortable with the conversation.
“Now that we’ve found you however,” Beth continued, “All of our resources can focus on them.”
“Why were we taken?” Abby asked then, asking the question that had been bugging her for days.
“McGruder and Michael have a theory,” Beth offered, “But it’d probably be better if they filled you in.”
Abby nodded silently, tipping her cup and taking in more of the coffee before glancing down at the book. “Fair enough,” she uttered before turning another page in the old volume.
As she concentrated on the runes, she heard Beth making a call to Michael about the computer. Pushing their conversation to the background of her consciousness, she continued to page through the book, looking for anything that would spark recognition in her mind.
When she finally stumbled across that recognition, her eyes locked on the two symbols side by side that caused her heart to freeze in her chest.
“Holy shit!” she shouted suddenly, spilling her coffee when she jumped up and moved away from the book like it was cursed.
“Holy fucking shit!”
December 15, 2000
Snake eased slowly into the parking slot, putting the van in park and shutting off the engine before turning in his seat to speak to the others.
“Are you all ready?” he started, glancing around the nearly empty parking lot before continuing. “Welcome to the beautiful city of
Realizing too late that the officials had probably tagged their van with a tracking unit, he also had to consider the possibility that their van was bugged. Writing a note, he had passed it around the van, warning the others not to say anything about what they were really doing in
Formulating a plan in his head as he drove, he would wait until they were safely ensconced in their rooms before revealing it to the others.
In the meantime, they all needed to get out of the van and get some much-needed rest and nourishment.
Unloading the car, they all trudged in to the lobby of the hotel and registered before making their way up to the fourth floor. Raven had arranged for adjoining rooms as there were no suites available.
Once inside, there was a flurry of activity as everyone took turns using the bathroom before they once again left and went down stairs again.
Their next stop was a local restaurant within sight of the hotel, where they all filled up on high-carbohydrate, traditional Russian dishes. By the time they had finished the meal, everyone at the table had eyes that were half closed from the rich food and exhaustion.
Dutifully, Snake rousted them from their chairs and herded them back toward the hotel. Another flurry of activity surrounded the bathrooms again as they made ready for bed. Within ten minutes however, Snake had everyone bedded down and was kissing Raven goodbye.
“You’re not coming to bed?” Raven whispered sleepily as he slipped back into his coat.
Assuring her that he would be right back, Snake quietly left the room and made his way down the back stairwell of the building. Disabling the light at the bottom of the stairwell, he then cracked open the exit door before carefully scanning the back parking lot. Most of the cars there had windshields covered with frost, meaning they were empty and had been for awhile.
There was one car however that was running, the glow of the driver’s cigarette flaring up as Snake watched. Not expecting someone to be watching the back of the building, Snake tensed as he continued to watch through the crack in the door.
If they were watching both sides of the hotel, he would need to come up with an alternate plan.
Fighting the urge to do something, Snake remained motionless, eyeing the vehicle while calculating new options.
Surprisingly, the car shut off at that moment and the driver exited. Snake breathed a sigh of relief when he recognized the girl heading back into the hotel as the one that had been at the desk when they had checked in.
Waiting until she had entered the building Snake then slid out onto the sidewalk, inserting one of his gloves into the door jam to keep it from closing. Although his keycard would have let him back in, he didn’t want to leave an electronic trail that he had used the exit.
Shoving his hands into his coat’s pockets, he nonchalantly walked to the far edge of the lot before turning left on a public sidewalk. Traveling to the end of the block, he noted the name of the road that ran behind the hotel before turning left and making his way around to the darkened-end of the building.
Stopping in the shadows created by the main parking lot lights, he then turned and stepped up next to the building and slid toward the corner of the building.
From this vantage point, he could make out the whole of the front lot, as well as getting a clean look at every car there.
Again, most of the cars were frost covered, and again, there was one that was not. This time however, he could make out the end of two glowing cigarettes in the front seat of the boxy sedan.
Keeping an eye on them over the next half hour, Snake observed the people in the car both smoke one cigarette right after another, without ever making an effort to leave.
These weren’t employees on a break…they were waiting for something…or someone!
Convinced that this was indeed his tail, Snake rolled away from the corner and pulled out a previously unused cell phone and powered it up. When it had obtained a signal, he punched in a number from memory and hit send.
“Da?” the other party picked up almost immediately.
“Are you here in Prirechnyy already old friend?” Anton questioned with a smile in his voice.
“Unfortunately,” Snake replied while sneaking another look around the corner of the building, “We had to make a side trip to Pechenga…seems we picked up a couple of friends along the way.”
“Svolochi!” Anton seethed. (Bastards!)
“How do dey expect to get Amer-i-can tourists when they still follow everyone around like deti?” (children)
“Maybe it’s that,” Snake started, pulling back again from the corner, “Maybe it’s something else. In any case, I could use a hand getting out of here unobserved.”
“You have my un-divided attention my old friend…you have a plan?”
Snake pushed open the exit door an inch and stared through the crack. It was now 4:00 in the morning local time, and every car in sight was covered in frost and snow.
Waking everyone up a half an hour ago, Snake had urged them to get up and get ready to move. Insisting that they leave the lights off, he didn’t want to advertize that they were up to the car outside.
Snake had spent most of his night staring out the window of one of their rooms, watching the activity of the car below. As the night had lingered on, he had noticed a definite slowdown of glowing cigarettes, until by three o’clock the activity had ceased altogether.
Now he had everyone behind him as he scoped out the back lot one more time.
“Ok,” he whispered. “We leave as one and head for the street. Act like you belong there, and don’t rush. When you reach the sidewalk, turn left and go through the next intersection. Our man should be waiting for us down the street.”
Turning to look at the others, he saw that everyone was wide awake now…except for Ya Su, who was thankfully sleeping quietly in the car seat held between May and Georgette.
Turning toward the door once again, Snake took a deep breath and then said, “Let’s go.”
Pushing through the door, Snake held it open as first Raven, and then May, Georgette and Josh walked though. Easing the door shut behind them, Snake then brought up the rear of their little parade.
Reaching the sidewalk, Raven quickly glanced back before stepping out onto the sidewalk and turning left. In another ten seconds, they were all on the sidewalk heading toward the intersection. When they reached that, Raven stepped out onto the roadway and continued across it, leading the rest of them like a mother duck.
As they came upon the next sidewalk, Raven seemed to disappear as she moved into the shadows. The city was eerily quiet as one by one their forms evaporated into the darkness of the next street, evading the tail and inadvertently changing the carefully laid trap of an unknown entity.
Copyright 2015 J.T. Lewis
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