Gold Train: Chapts 0-4

Read prologue & first 4 chapters free!

2012 Amazon/Kindle bestseller! Based on true historic events. 

Begin your secret love affair with Russia – GOLD TRAIN is a fast-paced thrill ride, complete with deadly conspiracy, FSB spies, dangerous romance and an unexpected mystical element. Think Jason Bourne & Russia House fusion with a mystical twist…

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Accidental Spy Russia Adventure

Praise for Gold Train

“Brilliantly Written – A MUST Read. This book had it all, not only a great mystery and action, but a little romance and even some humour. The story is fantastic – layers that go deeper and deeper… Superb, fast paced and well written… one of those books that gets you thinking about things – even after you finish reading.” — The Kindle Book Review

“Highly anticipated follow up adventure by novelist Lada Ray, Gold Train certainly delivers with dramatic thrills and spills. The action follows journalist Jade Snow as the sexy super sleuth goes international. Truth, justice and the American way… superman can take lessons from this reporter! Easily 5 stars all the way, highly recommend for all you politicos out there.” — Jasper Snieder

“One of the coolest, most explosive and passionate novels I read in a very long time! Has you hanging on the edge of your seat! Read it and you’ll see what I mean!” — A Barnes & Noble reader

“Jade Snow is to journalism, what Jason Bourne is to action and espionage. Gold Train is an absolute must read.” — J.J. Collins, Author, Famine to Freedom, The Irish in the American Civil War (London, UK)

“A Race for Gold! Fast paced thrill ride filled with great characters you will love and villains you will hate. This is definitely one to read!” — Kate’s Reads

“On top of breakneck action, the ending blew my socks off. It was 100% an original book. It’s even inspired me to learn Russian.” — Rachel’s Book Reviews

“Solid Gold Thriller. If you enjoyed the charming young detective, Jade Snow, in Stepford, USA, you will absolutely love her next adventure in Gold Train. Read Gold Train and be transfixed as Jade stays one step ahead of her adversaries through quick thinking and bold actions. Lada Ray takes you inside the grand houses of Russia to witness an unfolding mystery you will not soon forget.” — Jason Sullivan, Author, The Dark Yergall


Books by Lada Ray

THE EARTH SHIFTER, Prophetic Mystical Thriller

CATHARSIS, Legend of the Lemurians (Earth Keepers 1)

STEPFORD USA (Accidental Spy Small Town Adventure  #1)

GREEN DESERT (Accidental Spy Iraq Prequel)


New York, NY

 Copyright © 2011-2012 Lada Ray

To Russia, with love

RUSSIAN DOUBLE EAGLE black and white


August 1918, Russia

The steam locomotive’s driver distinctly saw two tiny figures running towards the train on railroad tracks – children, no more than ten or eleven. The driver exchanged a bewildered glance with his young assistant and the fireman.

Steam engine’s whistle pierced the stillness of the forest. But the children neither stopped, nor turned away. The driver pulled the whistle lever harder – again and again – but the children still kept running towards them, waving their hands and yelling something. What, he couldn’t hear over the deafening roar of the engine.

Why weren’t they stepping off the tracks? Why weren’t they afraid of the giant, black, steam- and fire-breathing locomotive pulling twelve fully loaded carriages? With a pang in his heart, the driver recalled his own grandchildren, a boy and a girl aged eight and ten – thank goodness, safely back home. Damn civil war! Even children didn’t act as children should!

He knew, if he didn’t do something immediately, the multi-ton iron monster he commanded would squash the children’s little bodies like a couple of insects.

But that meant disobeying strict orders.

“Full stop!” he yelled at the top of his lungs and threw his entire weight on the emergency brake. If he acted quickly, he might still be able to avert the collision!

“What the hell is going on here?!” the driver heard a thunderous voice. A broad-shouldered man, who was black-clad head to toe – leather jacket, tall boots, galife trousers, cowhide belt with attached holster – stormed into the locomotive’s cabin, hastily pulling out a shiny, black Mauser revolver.

“Comrade Commissar,” choked out the driver, still pulling on the emergency brake with all his might, “there are children on tracks!”

With relief, he felt that the huge machine started ever so slowly, ever so grudgingly, losing speed.

Commissar threw a lightning-fast glance at the tracks, noted quickly approaching children and frowned.

“Comrade Lenin’s personal directive was,” he said in a dangerous voice, “no stopping under any circumstances!” He pointed his revolver at the driver. “Step away from that brake and get back to full speed -NOW!”

“But the children!” cried out the driver in despair, refusing to believe that this kind of cruelty was possible from one of his revolutionary comrades.

“Full speed, or you die,” said Commissar through clenched teeth.

“I am sorry, Comrade Commissar,” the driver shook his head. “But I can’t do that.”

At that moment, as the locomotive’s huge body started finally coming to a screeching halt, the driver noticed with surprise the two children on tracks suddenly jump aside and nimbly disappear into the darkness of the trees.

“Traitor! Saboteur!” yelled Commissar and pulled the trigger.

The old locomotive driver felt something hot hit his chest and fell to the floor like a heavy sack.

“Back to full speed if you want to live!” Commissar pointed his Mauser at the blanched driver’s assistant and at the fireman covered in black soot.

Both men worked feverishly, hands trembling, feeding heaping shovels of coal into the demanding fiery beast, slipping on bloody floor and throwing surreptitious glances at the immobile figure unceremoniously hauled by Commissar into the cabin’s corner.

The giant locomotive started slowly, reluctantly moving.

“Faster, faster, sons of bitches!” yelled Commissar. “Remember what precious cargo you are carrying! Faster, I said, unless you want to end up like this traitorous scum!”

They worked as fast as they could, but not fast enough.

Through the steam engine’s noise, they heard the rhythmic drumming of horse hooves accompanied by the horsemen’s war cries.

“Faster, faster, you, bastards!” thundered Commissar, waiving his Mauser.

Urgent gunshots told them that the elite Red Guards regiment assigned to guard the train, was engaged in a battle against the attackers.

“Damn, they are boarding the train!” roared Commissar. “Faster, please, dear brothers,” he added desperately, throwing a pleading glance at the driver’s assistant and the fireman.

The two men nodded, working as hard as humanly possible, while Commissar disappeared into the belly of the train.

At last, the locomotive regained its original speed and they paused, wiping dripping sweat, listening. All of a sudden, it seemed awfully quiet inside the train, and deciding that Commissar and his Red Guards managed to fend off the attack, the young driver’s assistant cracked a rare smile and the fireman’s sooty face answered in like. About to return to their duties, they heard heavy footsteps and waited for Commissar to open the door. He would be in a good mood now; he would be happy with their work…

“Stop the train, sons of bitches – NOW!!!” roared a voice.

The man, who stepped through the cabin’s door, his gold epaulets gleaming, wasn’t the Commissar at all.

“The Whites!” croaked out the driver’s assistant.

The imposing man in Tsar’s Army uniform with gold colonel’s stars waved his Smith & Wesson in front of their noses.

“Yes, the White Guards, you Red filth! And unless you do exactly as I say…”

Out of a corner of his eye, the colonel noticed the young man’s move. His Smith & Wesson fired, and the driver’s assistant sank to the floor. The red-hot poker slipped out of his fingers and fell with a loud thud.

“Can you drive the train?” The colonel pointed his revolver at the fireman.

Cautiously, the fireman shook his head, standing as still as possible so that not to anger the colonel any further.

“Then what do I need you for?” asked the colonel tauntingly. The Smith & Wesson went off one more time and the fireman’s blackened face hit the floor.

“Red filth,” murmured the colonel and spat on the dead man’s body.

As darkness fell, a different kind of train snaked on a remote dirt road hidden somewhere in the vast forests of middle Russia, the train of horse carriages stretching for kilometers,  all loaded with precious cargo.

By dawn, not a single piece of the mysterious cargo remained on the train. Only the slaughtered bodies of Commissar, the entire regiment of the Red Guards and the train crew were left behind.

The ancient forest stood silent, the sole witness and the record keeper, as it always did.


Chapter 1

October 2011, New York

Russia had been on my must do list since I was nineteen. But somewhere between writing about the Iraqi war, chasing the Taliban for the documentary of a lifetime, marrying Paul, nearly getting killed during my Stepford, USA adventure, developing a psychic gift and having a baby, it had become little more than a remote dream…a whisper relegated to the forgotten storeroom of my mind.

My name is Jade Snow, I am an international journalist – at least I used to be. At present, I am a stay-at-home mom complete with my cute as a button thirteen month old daughter, Lara, and a beautiful, super-intelligent calico cat named Princess Lily. My husband, Paul, is a prominent journalist with Time magazine. We met in Afghanistan, when he saved my crew and me from an ambush. Guilty, as charged; as independent as I am, deep down, I’ve always been a sucker for a white knight in shining armor.

We were married a month later, then Lara came along. And now, Paul was enjoying adventures at the hottest spots on the planet for both of us. As for me… I usually watched him pack for his next trip at our spacious Upper West Side apartment and I can’t honestly say that green beastie of envy had never entered my mind.

Blame my gypsy-like adventurous side on my international heritage. English, Spanish, and even Viking blood runs through my veins. And a whole one quarter of it is Russian. My English and Viking sides have contributed to my reddish-auburn hair, my Spanish side gave me a great tan, while my Russian side is responsible for the unusual blue-green color of my eyes that, according to my husband, look like a clear turquoise ocean on a sunny day.

When I was little, my beloved Grandma Anastasia told me tales of Moscow’s golden domes and magical royal balls at St. Petersburg’s Winter Palace. She went on and on about Barbie-like ladies in gorgeous gowns and handsome prince charmings in tuxedos and epaulets. Grandma Anastasia was one of the so-called White Russians: her parents ran away from the Bolshevik revolution and the Civil War. Grandma was born and grew up in Spain, where she married a Spanish professor and with him came to live in New York.

My parents, who were international journalists and progressives, approved of Grandma’s Russian language and history lessons, although strongly disapproved of what they called brainwashing the child with all that silly, old royal stuff.

But they honestly needn’t bother. I was in no danger of being brainwashed, and I could care less about gowns, grand balls and prince charmings. Once for my sixth birthday, Grandma’s old friend, a distinguished New York lawyer Boris Goncharov, brought me a beautiful and expensive doll, which was the envy of all my friends. To be polite, I pretended to play with it for all of five minutes. After that, it lay forgotten, until my mother fished it out from under my bed and donated it to a children’s hospital.

That was the last time anyone ever attempted to give me a doll. My choice toys included world globes and National Geographic subscriptions. My favorite past time was tracking my parents’ journeys by marking each exotic destination with a tiny flag on an oversized world map hanging in my room. And I could listen for hours to stories about remote and dangerous locations where their work had taken them.

My parents were killed in South America when I was barely a teenager.

In those difficult times, Grandma Anastasia was my rock and my anchor. She set aside her extensive social calendar and visits to a spa and took over as my surrogate mother, and when necessary, as a surrogate father, too. She saw me through my first year at Columbia University. Then, in the middle of my second year, her poor old heart just gave up… and she died.

I was devastated. And it was only thanks to my best friend, Rachel Weise, who literally spoon-fed me for a month that I survived and went on to finish my international journalism degree with honors. Come think of it, Rachel’s success with her first “patient” solidified her decision to become a psychotherapist. And it was then that I made myself a solemn promise to visit Grandma Anastasia’s Russia. I owed it to her memory.

At thirty, I still haven’t fulfilled that promise.

But I haven’t given up either. All these years, I kept polishing up my Russian and kept in touch with Russian events via the Internet. My famous intuition was telling me that the semi-forgotten promise would one day escape my mind’s dusty storeroom. One day, it would be front and center.

What I had no way of knowing was how soon it would happen and how front and center it would become…

That morning, I’d just completed my daily exercise, mainly consisting of pushing a stroller and pursuing my little daughter around Central Park. At thirteen months, Lara discovered the delights of chasing pigeons and squirrels, which meant that I had chase after her.

Paul was preparing for a new assignment to Somalia and had left to his office early. As usual before a new dangerous trip, my husband was fully absorbed in his own world and didn’t notice anyone or anything around, a behavior I came to be used to. I opened the door into our apartment, put Lara into her playpen, washed the dishes after Paul’s breakfast, made the bed, and was about to enjoy my morning cup of tea when the phone rang.

“Hello,” I said, wondering who might be calling at this hour. All my friends worked during the day; alas, I was the only stay-at-home mom. Perhaps, Paul forgot something?

“Hellou,” answered a heavily accented female voice. “May I speak viz Jade Snou, please?”

“Jade Snow speaking.”

“Zhis is Svetlana from Moskva.”

“Svetlana?” I asked, confused. “Moscow?”

“Yes, Svetlana Svistunova, juurnalist from Moskva. You emailed me tree veeks ago about Gold Train.”

Then, I finally recalled. “Yes, yes, of course, so good of you to call!”

“Don’t mention it,” said Svetlana formally, and added, “please forgeeve my Engleesh, I am afraid it is not veree guud.”

“Oh, no,” I rushed to assuage her, “your English is fine!” It was a white lie, so sue me! “But if you like, we can speak Russian,” I proposed. “I need to practice anyway.”

“You speak Russian?” asked Svetlana, sounding relieved. “Zdorovo! Davaite togda po Russki!”

I switched to Svetlana’s mother tongue. “Yes, my Grandma Anastasia was Russian and she taught me for years.”

“Your Russian is very good,” she said. “But the reason I am calling is because I am the journalist who broke the Gold Train story.”

Three weeks ago, during one of my Internet research expeditions, I stumbled upon a story reported in the Russian press. It was the story that really intrigued me…

It happened back in 1918, during the bloody Russian Civil War. Due to the relentless attacks by the Whites, who wanted to restore the monarchy, the Bolsheviks were about to lose the city of Kazan, some eight hundred kilometers east of Moscow. The Bank of Kazan was the depository of the Gold Reserve of the Russian Empire. Together with silver and platinum, it was one of the largest, if not the largest, precious metals reserves of its day. By Lenin’s personal decree, a train was sent to retrieve the gold and transfer it to a secret location. However, somewhere en route, the Russian Empire Gold Reserve vanished without a trace.

The author, Svetlana Svistunova, told the whole story in vivid details. She hinted that the gold wasn’t lost or taken out of the country, as many believed. In the end, she announced that she was closing in on the Gold Train discovery and that soon she would be releasing part two of her investigative report in which she would propose a theory as to where the gold was hidden.

Being a sucker for tantalizing mysteries, I couldn’t get this one out of my mind. It occurred to me that if we collaborated with Svetlana in her investigation, we could sell this sensational story to an American publication. I could see the headlines: “The Treasure of the Millennium!” “Lost Gold Of The Russian Tsars, Found At Last!” “The World’s Largest Treasure!” And “Brilliant Journalist, Jade Snow, Receives Pulitzer Today For The Incredible Mystery Of Tsar’s Gold!” All right, perhaps not…

Still, I saw this as a chance to restart my journalistic career, which came to a screeching halt after I became pregnant with Lara. I wasn’t used to complaining as I was brought up by both my parents and Grandma Anastasia to see the best in people and things. Some call it rosy glasses, and others optimism. It was this relentless and stoic optimism that got me through every trial of the past.

On the surface, everything looked simply terrific in my life: a successful and famous husband, adorable baby daughter and fabulous apartment on Upper West Side. But my gypsy soul desperately longed for something it had been denied – the danger and excitement of unpredictably sweet adventures. I kept brushing aside this longing, telling myself that I was now a married woman and a mother, and that my responsibility was to stay with Lara. But more and more often, rebellious thoughts popped into my mind that Paul didn’t have to stay home, that he jet-setted the world, and that I rushed into the marriage which started out as a cool adventure for us both, but turned into a jail sentence for me. No matter how much I chased away these treacherous thoughts, I felt at times that if the steam weren’t let out, I would simply explode from the build up of internal pressure. Perhaps, I thought wistfully, this was my chance to finally stretch my legs and taste freedom (of course, if Paul’s travel schedule allowed it). And somewhere deep down – secretly – I also hoped that maybe, just maybe, this could be a way to start fulfilling my promise to revisit Grandma Anastasia’s motherland.

It was a long shot, but I am allowed to dream, aren’t I?

I was bursting with news when Paul came back from work. I told him about the Gold Train and about Svetlana’s call.

“Perhaps,” I shared my dream with him, “if I worked together with her, I could sell the story to an American magazine. Svetlana said she’d gladly collaborate in exchange for my help in her investigation, English translation and royalties.”

Paul listened, silently observing stars in my eyes…and I felt comprehension dawning in his. Next morning at breakfast, he spoke little and seemed absent-minded. At lunch, he called me.

“Sweetheart,” he said in a mysterious voice. “Could you come by my office as soon as possible? My boss wants to talk to you.”

“Your boss wants to talk to me?” This sounded so unexpected that I was stunned. “B… but I can’t leave Lara!”

“Don’t worry. Just get dressed. I already called Dolores, she’s on her way.” Dolores was Lara’s nanny, who came by three times a week so I could take care of other things.

“It’s good to see you, Jade,” said Time magazine’s editor-in-chief, George Bollinger. “Paul is telling me that you are ready to rejoin the ranks of international journalists?”

“He speaks the truth, George!” And I told him the whole story.

After a pause, he said, “Tell you what. Russia is changing rapidly and we are looking to capture these changes as they occur. After the end of the Cold War interest in Russia has waned, but now it’s picking up again. We are planning an expose, a series of articles that showcases Russia old and Russia new. The Gold Train story could be part of the series. If you can leave in two days, the assignment is yours and you may also include your Russian journalist friend as your collaborator. But you have to be ready to leave by Thursday. What do you say?”

I opened my mouth at such speedy turn of events and had a lot of trouble shutting it again.

“I…I… um…” I stumbled.

“George,” Paul came to the rescue, “Jade will be ready in two days, I guarantee it. I will stay with Lara.”

“But what about your Somalia trip?” I said.

“That’s not a problem,” Paul responded lightly. “Alison always wanted to do that one. Don’t worry,” he added, seeing me frown. I knew how important this assignment was to my husband. “There will be plenty of other trips after your return.”

“But what about…” I was stalling, still trying to wrap my mind around what was happening.

“I already talked to Dolores,” Paul interjected quickly. “She agreed to come in every day, for as long as you are in Russia. And I can work from home.”

Seeing me still hesitate, Paul added, “This is your chance to restart your career. Go for it, darling. We’ll be fine, I promise.”

It appeared that Paul has thought of everything. And clearly, I ran out of excuses. I looked at George Bollinger, who nodded encouragingly; then at Paul, who shone with a happy smile – and felt my eyes starting to sting.

George was giving me a chance of a lifetime and Paul was ready to sacrifice his own assignment, so I could rekindle my career. I couldn’t let them down!

“Thank you, George! You won’t regret it,” I said, feeling wings sprouting behind my back.

At home, I said thank you to Paul in a very different way. We made love late into the night and long after he fell asleep, I couldn’t wipe the blissful grin off my face.

I was back! I’d be writing and traveling again. George Bollinger hinted that if they liked my work, he’d hire me as Time magazine’s freelance contributor. He might even make Russia one of my regular destinations! I’d be able to work part time, while still raising Lara. It seemed, my dreams were finally coming true and my life was taking the right turn.


 Chapter 2

I was busy packing, when I heard a buzz.

Who could it be? I thought, pressing the intercom button. Whoever it was, their timing was atrocious as I still had tons to pack.

“Hello, Jade!” came what sounded like an old man’s voice.

Could it be a voice from the past?

“Uncle Boris?” I said into the speaker. “I can’t believe it! Is it really you?”

“That’s me all right!”

“Please, come on up! Carlos, please let him in.”

“Sure thing, Ms. Jade,” responded the security guard.

I opened the door, grinning ear-to-ear. The man, who stood in the doorway, still had remnants of that regal posture I remembered from the old days and a luxurious mane of hair, now completely white. But he moved with difficulty and his breathing was heavy just walking from the elevator to my door. Last time I saw Boris Goncharov at Grandma Anastasia’s funeral. It appeared since then, old age had finally caught up with him.

When I was little, Boris and Grandma Anastasia were very close. He was the long-time President of the Russian Royal Society, of which Grandma was also a lifelong member. I didn’t pay much attention to that kind of stuff back then, and my parents disapproved of all her Royal Society friends as a matter of principle. Then, although nothing was ever said, I knew that she broke up with the Society, much to my parent’s relief. But even if they had a falling out, Boris still was Grandma’s old friend. I recalled the doll he once gave me. It was an expensive gift and he meant well. When I was little, I called him Uncle Boris, the Russian way. To me, he still was Uncle Boris.

“Now, let me look at you,” he said, stopping to catch his breath. He gave me an admiring gaze, his eyes pausing on my breasts, which filled up ever since my pregnancy, and proceeded to skim the rest of my curves – quite a change from my old, stick-like figure. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say that Grandma Anastasia’s old buddy was checking me out!

“Uncle Boris!” I wagged my finger at him.

“Sorry,” he said, still staring at me and not looking sorry at all. “When I look at you, I feel forty years younger. You’ve really blossomed, my dear. You are looking more and more like your Grandma Anastasia, and she was the original beauty in her day.”

“It’s good to see you, Uncle Boris!” I gave him a hug.

“I’ve heard that you are going to Russia. Is that true?”

“Yes! Time magazine hired me to do a series about Russia old and Russia new, so to speak.”

“Fascinating,” said Uncle Boris pensively.

“Is there something you wanted, Uncle Boris? Don’t get me wrong, I am very happy to see you, and your showing up now must be interpreted as a good omen for my trip,” I simply couldn’t resist a chuckle, “but I am awfully behind on packing and the plane won’t wait. So, I’m afraid we’ll have to make it quick…”

“Yes, of course. I understand and won’t take much of your time. “Here,” he handed me a small package wrapped in gold silk and tied with an exquisite gold ribbon.

“I want to ask you to pass a small gift to a friend in St. Petersburg. Her name is Vera Golitsina. She is a very old and dear friend and I thought she might like what’s inside. It’s a jewelry box,” he added by way of an explanation.

Typical Uncle Boris! What a sweet man! He thought his friend would like some exquisite little trinket, so he’d spare no effort or expense to bring her joy.

“No problem,” I said. I took the golden package and put it on top of my nearly packed suitcase.

At that moment, Lara ran into the living room with Dolores hot on her heals.

“And this must be little Lara,” beamed Uncle Boris, picking her up – with difficulty. “She looks a lot like you – just as beautiful and just as hard to catch.”

I giggled, delighted at the memory. He should know. When I was little, Grandma would often take me for walks to Central Park. After Antonio, her husband and my grandfather, died, Boris would often accompany us. He’d bring Grandma gorgeous bouquets, which usually lay forgotten on a bench, as they both were busy chasing me around the park. Like mother, like daughter…

After he left, I finished packing. Then, I barely squeezed Uncle Boris’s package into a corner of my suitcase. In the end, I had to make a choice between bringing a book to read and Uncle Boris’s gift to some woman I’ve never met.

A bit frustrated that I had to sacrifice valuable space, I wondered what could be so special about this jewelry box that Uncle Boris couldn’t simply FedEx it?Trying to save money? Unlikely, not really his style. If anything, he’d always been overly generous.

What then? Probably doesn’t trust to mail it. And lo and behold, he heard on the grapevine that good old Jade was leaving to Russia. Why not ask her? He knew I wouldn’t say no for the old times’ sake. It seemed in his mind, I was a perfect courier. The Boris Goncharov I remembered was sharp, always in control and at times, too controlling. But he would’ve never asked someone to deliver a gift if he could just mail it.

I shook my head. Pity, Uncle Boris has truly aged – he even behaved like a helpless old man. But a promise is a promise. After all, it’s just a little box and I could certainly indulge Grandma’s old buddy. I stared at my full suitcase. A momentary curious thought was to open the little golden box and see what was really inside. But then I saw Grandma’s face, which was looking at me disapprovingly. “I taught you better than this,” her voice rang in my head, making me blush. The high upbringing I received wouldn’t allow me to do such dishonorable thing as opening someone else’s private correspondence, and I knew that was exactly why Uncle Boris entrusted me his little parcel.

Oh, well, it was certainly safe with me. I resolutely closed my suitcase and put the whole thing out of my mind, concentrating on what needed to be done next. At last, I stood in the doorway, suitcases at my feet. Lara, sensing my imminent departure, started crying and attempted to wiggle out of Dolores’ arms. Princess Lily brushed her silky body against my legs, her tail nervously thrashing, her meows echoing Lara’s cry.

I picked up my baby daughter, holding her close.

“Darling,” I whispered in her ear. “Mommy loves you very much. Mommy needs to go on a little trip now, more like a vacation really, nothing to worry about. But Daddy will stay with you, and Dolores, and Lily. And I’ll be back as soon as I can – promise!” I kissed Lara tenderly all over her rosy cheeks and button-like nose, which made her giggle with delight. Then, I gave her back to Dolores.

“Now it’s your turn, young lady,” I said, picking up Princess Lily. I stroked her fur and scratched her neck, just as she liked it. Lily’s silky fluff felt incredibly good and I didn’t know which one of us was enjoying it more. “Listen, you be a good girl and watch over Lara while I am away, all right?” I said to her.

Princess Lily fixed her two shimmeringturquoise eyes on me. “You can count on it,” her glance said. We stared at each other like that, her green turquoise into my green turquoise; people had always said our eyes perfectly mirrored each other.

“You just be careful,” she transmitted telepathically.

“Don’t worry, I will! Besides, this trip is more like a vacation,” I responded in like.

As usual, no one but the two of us seemed to notice this telepathic exchange between a feline and a human. I preferred it that way, as a little secret between Lily and me.

Paul and I got into my Land Rover and rode to the Kennedy Airport in silence, holding hands. Just outside the airport’s busy lobby, he gave me a long and passionate kiss. We stood like this, amidst the rumble of passing luggage carts and the honks of taxis, for what seemed like an eternity.

Then he whispered into my ear, “I love you, and believe in you. Good luck!”

“I love you, too,” I whispered back.

“Jade, Jade!”

I turned in the direction of the voice.

“Rachel!” I waved to my best friend, who was hastily paying the cab.

“Upph,” she said, catching her breath, “hardly managed to get away from my patients! But I couldn’t let you go without a hug, could I?”

“So glad you made it,” I said, glowing.

She hugged me and said, “You just be careful there. For what it’s worth, I’ve heard that Russia is a dangerous place for journalists.”

“Don’t worry,” I waived her remark aside. “I’m sure, it’s not true. American media always sensationalizes things. Besides, this trip is more like a vacation, really.”

I finished saying the words and frowned. Weird… This trip is more like a vacation, really seemed to have become my mantra of late. But I had no time to ponder on the significance of that as I had a plane to board. So I put the beginnings of a thought stirring somewhere in the depths of my psyche, on the back burner. There would be time to meditate on that later.

Once on the plane, I reclined my business class seat (courtesy of Time magazine) as far as it would go. Through the entire Red Eye flight to Moscow, I dreamed of steam locomotives, royal balls and golden domes. Next morning at six, Moscow time, as the world started waking up to a new day, I paused at the exit of the Sheremetievo-2 Airport, inhaling the brisk morning air that smelled and tasted very unlike the New York air I was accustomed to.

I was in Moscow. I was in Russia… I finally made it.


Chapter 3

I am so happy you came,” Svetlana greeted me. “Now, I can finally share my thoughts and suspicions with someone.”

“Don’t you talk about it with your colleagues and friends?” I asked, surprised.

“Yeah, sure,” she hesitated. “Well, it’s just that…”

“Just that?”

“Well, you know how it is,” she went on. “Everyone has lives to live and things to do in the present. They all seem to think I’m obsessed. To them, the Gold Train story is stuff of urban legends that has no bearing on today.”

“I know exactly what you mean,” I said, nodding. “Been there, done that.” We exchanged a glance and the initial bond between us just got stronger.

We sat in the living room of Svetlana’s neat flat and drank tea with delicious Russian cake. The small dining table was full of delicacies: caviar, Oliviere, a famous Russian salad, appetizing-looking smoked white fish that melted in your mouth, French wine, Italian salami, Swiss cheese, Greek olives and Russian blinchiki.

“I’ve been working on this story for over a year,” said Svetlana. “Lots of things are still not making any sense, but I’ve accumulated a lot of material. Now, it’s the matter of reconciling it. All my findings are in this notebook.”

She opened one of the drawers in her desk. Inside it, she showed me a protrusion, which turned out to be another – secret – drawer. Like a magician, she then opened the secret drawer by inserting her index finger between the boards in a specific way. I observed her manipulations with interest, wondering where she was going with this. After the secret drawer was opened, she reached with her hand towards its ceiling and pulled at something hard. I heard a ripping sound and a black, leather-bound notebook appeared in Svetlana’s hand.

“What was that ripping sound?”

“It’s the new German double-strength adhesive tape,” she explained. “I wanted you to see where the notebook was so you knew how to get it, just in case.”

“In case of what?”

“In case if anything happens, that’s all.” Svetlana shrugged her shoulders as if to say, no big deal, just a general precaution.

“But listen, I have a great idea,” she continued quickly, and I got a distinct feeling that she wanted to change the conversation. “We’ll have plenty of time to go over my notes tomorrow – it takes three hours forty five minutes to get to St. Petersburg on Sapsan. Today, we’ll celebrate your arrival! I’ll show you around Moscow and we’ll do something fun. What do you say?”

“I say let’s do it,” I responded enthusiastically. But I couldn’t shake the impression that Svetlana wasn’t telling me everything. And why did she keep her notebook hidden like this? Was she afraid of something? Or someone? Her behavior was a bit odd, but I decided that there would be plenty of time to figure it out later. Today, I was about to finally see Moscow!

It was an amazing day. Svetlana knew the city inside out and showed me all the cool spots off the beaten tourist path, which, I am sure, I would’ve never been able to find on my own.

Of course we did all the usual, too. How could I miss the Kremlin and Red Square, the amazing St. Basil’s Cathedral, Bolshoi Theatre that just re-opened after a massive renovation, or the gorgeous Moscow Metro? We strolled across Red Square, marveling at the mile-long line of people from all corners of the globe, waiting to enter Lenin’s Mausoleum.

“This hasn’t changed much,” remarked Svetlana. “Although they keep talking about closing the Mausoleum and moving Lenin’s body somewhere else… When I was barely six, my parents took me to see Lenin for the first time. We had to stand in a line that wrapped around the Kremlin.”

Svetlana waited patiently as I paused in awed silence, eyes closed, next to the famed Kremlin Wall, my hands on its ancient red brick. I stood like this for a while, drinking in the incredible energy and unique history of the place.

“Always wanted to touch the Kremlin Wall,” I exhaled, finally opening my eyes. My Russian friend smiled at me indulgently.

Then, we had an early dinner at the Pushkin Café and after that Svetlana took me to the Old Arbat, Moscow’s pedestrian artist district. Due to cold weather, very little art was on display in the streets as most people crowded the local bars and cafes.

We had a few cocktails at the bar and as darkness descended on Arbat, its exquisite old lanterns lit up, creating a spectacularly mystical backdrop. Light snow started falling on the quiet street and all of a sudden, we were transported into a magical fairy tale. We giggled, feeling pleasantly tipsy yet at the same time delightfully alive, and decided to take a nice evening walk. As we rounded the corner onto an adjacent street, we noticed a glittering sign that read:


Famous Gypsy Psychic and Fortuneteller

“You know,” said Svetlana, her eyes shining with tipsy excitement, “I’ve always wanted to get my fortune told.”

“Why not,” I agreed, grinning. “Let’s hear how we’ll meet a tall, dark and handsome prince and how our lives will be showered with gold.”

Svetlana laughed. “You are probably right, it’s silly. But to tell you the truth, the way my life is going, I wouldn’t mind hearing about a handsome prince. Too much work and too little play, if you know what I mean. I don’t care if she embellishes things a bit. The thought is what counts. It’ll warm my heart…”

And still giggling, we entered the Gypsy’s abode.

Rada turned out to be a tall, thin woman of undetermined age, with huge black eyes and dressed in a somewhat traditional Gypsy outfit, with a wide skirt and colorful blouse, but of the highest quality and tastefully put together. On her index finger, she wore a large ring that shimmered in the candlelight with mysterious green and blue fires; her neck was adorned with an exquisite matching necklace with teardrop stones set into it.

Since I was a guest, Svetlana let me go first. Rada gave me a penetrating look, then spread her tarot cards and said, “You are in for a big adventure. Beautiful ball, palaces and treasure await you. And you will meet a tall and handsome Russian prince.”

“Don’t you mean, tall, dark and handsome?” I couldn’t resist the ‘wise Alec’ remark.

Rada lifted her huge, bottomless eyes and looked at me without a hint of irritation. “Tall – yes, handsome – yes. But not dark. Blue eyes, light hair,” she concluded resolutely.

I blinked, trying to decide whether to laugh or to get annoyed at this revelation.

Meanwhile, Rada went on, seemingly undaunted. “There is mortal danger too,” she said, frowning. “Whatever you do, stay away from dark, underground spaces. But don’t worry, you’ll get help, so everything will turn out all right. In the end, you’ll find something extremely valuable, but lose something even more valuable in return.”

Rada ended her reading on that cryptic note and I just couldn’t help but roll my eyes and exchange a glance with Svetlana. See, what did I tell you? Typical Gypsy stuff. I felt annoyed at Rada. Who does she think she is? Advertising herself as if she was the best thing since sliced bread. And what a ridiculous thing to predict for me! A Russian prince? I ask you! She isn’t too sharp, this supposed psychic: hasn’t even noticed my ring and hasn’t realized that I am happily married, with a small child to boot. What would I want with a blue-eyed prince? I have my very own, tall, dark and handsome back in New York, thank you very much!

And what’s with this cryptic stuff, you’ll find something extremely valuable, but lose something even more valuable in return? Please! My skeptical side was in uproar and my first impulse – being an impatient American and all – was to demand my money back and leave with a bang!

But then, I took another look at Svetlana and felt guilty. Sure, if I were there alone, it would have been the end of my encounter with the Gypsy magic. But it was now Svetlana’s turn and I couldn’t just tell my gracious hostess, “Enough with all this silliness, let’s go!” Not after she dedicated the whole day to me and allowed me the first reading with Rada. It wasn’t her fault that the Gypsy didn’t live up to myoverblownexpectations. It’s supposed to be entertainment, I reminded myself.

Meanwhile, Svetlana’s ear-to-ear grin, if at all possible, got even bigger. Unlike me, she apparently didn’t forget that it was just entertainment. She gave me a look that clearly said, just let me hear my-very-own-prince-charming-prediction and then we’ll leave. Feeling ashamed of myself, I sat down and prepared to listen to Svetlana’s session.

If she promises her a prince too, then she’s definitely a fraud, I decided.

At precisely that moment, Rada turned to me with a sad smile and added, “There is one more thing. You won’t be able to make your trip tomorrow, due to an event beyond your control.” She lifted her huge eyes shimmering like two pieces of black coal, eyes that rather uncomfortably reached into the deepest hidden crevices of my soul and whispered, “I am so very sorry.”

I sat, still trying to wrap my mind around this last revelation, when Rada started Svetlana’s reading. My Russian friend sat across from the Gypsy, shining like a new silver ruble with delighted anticipation. I tuned in.

“You are on the verge of a very important discovery,” announced the Gypsy. “Your dedication to your work is bordering on obsession and you’ll be happy to know that you’ve already uncovered something that will be of great help to others. But…” she paused, “it won’t be your destiny to get to the bottom of this story that is so important to you.”

Svetlana’s face underwent a transformation. “Why?” she asked, a worried frown spreading across her forehead.

And again, the Gypsy’s bottomless eyes fixed on Svetlana, then on me, and her red lips uttered almost inaudibly, “Because you won’t live to finish your work. Someone else will do it for you.”

There were no jokes on the way back to Svetlana’s apartment. Still pale, she put water on the stove, made tea, took out of the fridge the remnants of my welcome cake, sliced some fresh lemon and cut some Russian bread, Swiss cheese and Italian salami. We sat at her tiny kitchen table and sipped green tea.

“Cheer up,” I said. “I am telling you, its total hogwash! That Gypsy should be taken to court for lying and scaring people. Look what she told me: that I would meet a prince and attend grand balls. How do you like that! She doesn’t even realize I am a happily married woman with a small child back home.”

“That’s true,” said Svetlana, color slowly returning to her face. “You hardly appear to be interested in that kind of stuff.”

“See what I mean!” I exclaimed, seizing on my initial success and trying to expand my advantage. “Nothing to worry about! Tomorrow morning we’ll be on our way to St. Petersburg and everything will be back to normal.”

“Right,” agreed Svetlana, almost her normal self. “Except,” she frowned again, “there is some truth to what she said.”

“What do you mean?”

“See, I… I’ve been receiving death threats demanding that I drop my Gold Train investigation.”

“Death threats?” I said, not quite believing my ears. “Oh, my God! Are you sure?”

“Of course I am sure! Look!” And she pulled out of her bag several notes with – what else – real death threats made out of cutout newspaper words. “If you don’t drop this, you’ll be very sorry!” “Forget the Gold Train, or die!” And other such nonsense.

I stared at the notes. If this was a joke, it wasn’t a funny one.

Aloud, I said, “Svetlana, did you contact the police?”

“Yes.” She nodded. “Unfortunately, they didn’t take it seriously. They think someone’s playing a prank. In their mind, the Gold Train story is ancient history, so who would want anyone dead because of it? I have to say, Russian police isn’t always up to speed. It’s not like your American police.”

Not like American police… Yeah, right. I recalled my previous adventure in the idyllic town of Stepford, USA – an adventure, which almost cost me my life, together with Lara’s when I was still pregnant with her, an adventure that involved two corrupt senior cops.

“Believe me,” I said, shaking my head. “US cops are no better and probably, much worse…”

“But how could that be?” exclaimed my naïve Russian friend. “All American shows portray cops as such efficient and justice-oriented people!”

“Efficient and justice-oriented,” I snorted sarcastically. “Efficient – perhaps, power hungry – definitely, justice-oriented – debatable.”

“Here, there is so much criticism of police that every TV program and newspaper is full of it. That’s why we are having a police reform. Everyone wants them to change. But no one’s talking about any police reform in America. How come?”

“I can’t believe the words are coming out of my mouth,” I said. “I mean, this contradicts all the stereotypes we grew up with, but if there is a police reform here, it just shows that this society is vibrant and forward-looking. There is no talk about any changes in the US not because they are not needed, but because cops are part of the system and the system doesn’t want to change.”

“Aaaah,” said Svetlana, comprehension registering in her eyes. “That sounds familiar. We went through something like this back in the 1980s.”

I nodded, thinking that it was amazing how misconceptions about each other still persisted in both Russia and the US. Except, in the US they erred on the side of negative (Russia is evil, undemocratic and lacks freedom) and in Russia they erred on the side of positive (everything is champagne and roses in the good old USA, where roads are paved with gold).

Speaking of gold… The Gold Train that is.

“Look,” I said. “I am kind of tired after my overnight flight and a whole day of excitement in Moscow. I’ll be heading back to my hotel now, and get a good night sleep. I’ll see you tomorrow bright and early at the train station. You must promise that you’ll lock the door very carefully and won’t let anyone in! Tomorrow, come straight to the station and we’ll discuss what to do about these threats on the train. Deal?”

“Deal!” Svetlana sounded relieved.

Back at the hotel, despite being exhausted, I couldn’t get the Gypsy’s warning and Svetlana’s clouded face out of my mind. But, I reminded myself, if I wanted to be in good shape tomorrow, I would need a good night’s rest.What was the point in worrying about something I couldn’t change? Tomorrow, we’d discuss everything on the train. Till then, I set aside all extraneous thoughts, took a nice, hot shower and had some chamomile tea with honey. Then I tucked myself into bed and fell asleep almost immediately.

The alarm woke me up at six and I promptly put on my clothes, gulped up some coffee, picked up my overnight bag and took a taxi to the Leningradsky Train Station. Sapsan, the futuristic high-speed train, was leaving to St. Petersburg at seven fifteen. I waited for Svetlana on the platform until five to seven. When she didn’t show, I started getting concerned.

Something urged me to contact her immediately. Except… Between sightseeing, the Gold Train story and Svetlana’s death threats, I forgot to buy a local cell phone. I dashed to the nearest booth selling pre-paid cell phones, paid and quickly dialed her home number. No answer. I dug out her cell phone number and dialed that too. It went straight to the message. Perhaps, she was in no reception zone? That at least meant she was on her way. Relieved, I left a brief message that I was waiting for her on the platform and returned to my vigil.

The last boarding call.

I took out my ticket. It seemed clear Svetlana wasn’t going to make it. Was she stuck in traffic? Did she oversleep? And should I go without her?

That was problematic. I didn’t know anyone in St. Petersburg, except the lady to whom I was supposed to pass Uncle Boris’ golden package. But as I understood, that lady was quite old. She could be indisposed, or not very friendly, or in no condition to show me around. For this trip, I counted on Svetlana. She was to be my connection, my pass to all the places I was longing to explore. Besides, we were supposed to look into evidence she uncovered in St. Petersburg. How could I possibly do all that without her?

I stared at the ticket. First class wasn’t cheap and it was extremely tempting to simply jump on the train. Technically, I could go by myself. Svetlana would call me later in St. Petersburg. She knew my hotel, and besides, she could always catch another train and join me later. Why should I change my plans if she was so irresponsible? I didn’t really know her much – after all, I’ve only just met her yesterday.

You do know her, another voice objected. You know, she in fact, is very responsible. So, if she hasn’t shown up, something happened. It also means that she may need your help. Obligingly, into my mind drifted the Gypsy’s warning. Then I recalled the death threats.

“Ready to board?” asked the train conductor, holding out her hand for my ticket.

I looked at the ticket, then at the conductor, then at the train. And made my decision.

“Thanks,” I said, “but I’ve changed my mind. Some other time, perhaps.” The conductor shrugged her shoulders, eying me with, ah, it’s one of those crazy Americans, look on her face. The next thing I knew, the slick and beautiful high-speed train, something I was really looking forward to experiencing, took off without me. I gave its disappearing rear a final, longing glance and reluctantly headed back through the station and onto the street. I caught a taxi and gave the driver Svetlana’s address.

“It better be good, Svetlana,” I murmured to myself. “You owe me big time, my dear Russian friend.” And then, another thought struck: the Gypsy said I would miss my St. Petersburg train. A chill went through my body. What else might she be right about? All of a sudden, I was truly worried.

Oh, just stop it, Jade! Clearly, it’s nothing more than a simple coincidence! I tried to talk myself into calming down, but something unspoken nagged and nagged somewhere next to my heart all the way to Svetlana’s place.

It took the taxi over half an hour to navigate all the traffic jams of central Moscow, but when I was on the verge of losing my patience, we finally arrived.

I entered the inner courtyard of Svetlana’s building. The normally deserted space turned out to be full of people. There was a police car with a couple of uniformed officers. At that moment, another police car arrived, its siren on. Two more policemen stepped out of it and headed towards the building.

What could have happened here? was my first thought. The second thought made me blanch. All of a sudden, I urgently needed to get to the source of this disturbance and started elbowing my way through the crowd. The area was already sealed and I couldn’t get any closer, but I knew right away that something was terribly wrong. The newly arriving captain was giving orders, but I wasn’t looking at him. My eyes were glued to the motionless form lying haplessly by the building entrance. Svetlana!

My eyes stinging, I ducked under the police tape and headed straight for the captain, who must have been in charge of this investigation.

“Hey, where do you think you are going?” said the uniformed police sergeant, blocking my way.

“I am a friend of the victim and I have important information,” I whispered, trying not to break down.

“Pavel,” nodded the captain. “Let her through.”

“Thank you,” I said, my lips trembling…and then, I couldn’t hold up any longer.

The captain looked at me with understanding and led me to Svetlana’s apartment and into Svetlana’s tiny kitchen, where he put a kettle on the stove and took two cups out of a cabinet. Watching him go through the same routine Svetlana went through just last night brought a fresh round of stinging to my eyes. The captain found some tea leaves and poured water into my cup.

“My name is Captain Davidenko,” he said, handing me the cup.

“Thanks,” I said gratefully. “I am Jade Snow.”

“So, what did you want to tell me?”


 Chapter 4

I sipped my tea, thinking how much could I tell this guy? The previous day’s events went through my mind: a day in Moscow with Svetlana, the Gold Train story, the Gypsy’s dire predictions and Svetlana’s death threats.

I summed him up appraisingly: fish-like, almost transparent grey eyes, calm and steady; light hair, not blond, but rather very light brown; neither tall, nor short, neither skinny, nor fat. An average, non-descript appearance, the kind you won’t notice in the crowd – a nice guy, reliable and reasonably intelligent.

“I don’t know where to begin,” I said, throwing a searching glance around the familiar kitchen.

“Begin where it’s comfortable for you,” said Captain Davidenko reassuringly, taking out some note paper and a pen.

“All right,” I nodded, squirming in my kitchen chair.

“Is something the matter?” he asked.

“Um…do you mind if we move to the living room? This chair is a bit uncomfortable.”

I felt him mentally lifting his eyes to the ceiling, as if to say, “God, why do I have to deal with one of those fickle Americans?” But I was okay with that. My plan was that we would move to the living room and when he wasn’t looking, I’d retrieve Svetlana’s Gold Train notes from the hiding place she showed me yesterday.

Ladno,” he said, nodding. “Living room it is.”

We sat at the dining table, me – sipping tea, him – taking his notes. I told him about how Svetlana and I met, about the Gold Train and about our trip to St. Petersburg, for which Svetlana failed to show up. While telling the story, I was throwing surreptitious glances around, trying to figure out how to create a long enough distraction to get to Svetlana’s notebook. He didn’t seem to notice and kept diligently writing down everything I said.

“If that’s all,” he finally said, “I thank you for all your help. And you’ll excuse me, I have to get back downstairs.”

“No,” I shook my head vigorously, “this is not all. There is much more.”

“More?” He said doubtfully. “Okay, I am listening.”

I knew I couldn’t stall much longer. I needed to start telling him the real story.

“Captain,” I said, “before I left yesterday, Svetlana said that she’d been receiving death threats warning her to drop the Gold Train investigation, or else. She was afraid. Before leaving last night, I made her promise that she’d lock and bolt the door and would not let anyone in.”

“Do you know if she had registered a complaint with the police about these threats?”

“She told me that the police didn’t take it seriously, thinking it was a prank.”

“Right,” he nodded. “But are you positive it wasn’t a prank?”

That was a good question. Was I? I recalled Svetlana’s scared face when she showed me the death threats.

“I can’t be one hundred percent sure,” I responded slowly, “but I think it’s for real. I have a gut feeling that those people are serious.” I stopped at that because, for obvious reasons, I wasn’t going to tell him about the Gypsy, nor was I planning on disclosing where Svetlana’s Gold Train notes were. Ever since the Stepford, USA story, my distrust of law enforcement ran deep, whether it was American or not.

On the surface, this guy seemed straight as an arrow, but there was no way of knowing for sure, was there? Besides, Svetlana seemed skeptical of the Russian police, so why should I trust them more than she did? What if he was as corrupt as the Stepford cops I had the unfortunate displeasure of meeting?

Meanwhile, Captain Davidenko stopped writing and looked me in the eye.

“I see,” he said. “Is there anything else you want to add to this?”

“No.” I hesitated for just a split second before shaking my head. Did he notice? I hoped not. “I think that’s about it.”

I was getting desperate. I really needed to be alone in this room for at least thirty seconds. I knew exactly where to look for the notebook, but I couldn’t do it in his presence. I was convinced that those who killed Svetlana would be back for it.

Why didn’t they try to obtain it before? Good question. Perhaps they tried, but someone spooked them? However, I knew that they’d be back for sure. There were only two options: tell Captain Davidenko about it and safeguard the notebook that way, or steal it and hide it where only I could reach it. I definitely preferred the latter, but so far, I wasn’t able to come up with an excuse to be left alone in the room. In despair, I mentally lifted my eyes to the ceiling and asked God for help, “Please God, let him be distracted by someone so I could get to Svetlana’s notebook.” At that very moment, there was a knock on the door.

“Comrade Captain,” I heard the sergeant’s voice.

“Yes?” He got up, stepped out of the apartment and engaged in a hushed exchange with the sergeant.

Tiptoeing quickly and silently across the room, I opened Svetlana’s desk. Next, I inserted my index finger between the boards, like Svetlana had done yesterday, and pried open the small secret drawer, trying to make no noise. I felt for the notebook with my hand. Just like yesterday, it was taped to the ceiling of the drawer. I gripped it as hard as I could and yanked it towards me with all my might. The sticky tape being ripped made what seemed like a deafening noise, causing all the blood drain from my heart. I froze, listening and praying no one noticed.

The captain and the sergeant were still talking as if nothing happened. I breathed a huge sigh of relief, hid the notebook in my bag and promptly sat back in my chair. And that’s when I noticed that I broke my nail, which was hanging by the thread on my scraped and bleeding index finger. I just intended to lick the blood off, when Captain Davidenko returned. I quickly hid the finger behind my back.

“I thank you for your testimony,” he said. “But the evidence that has surfaced so far indicates that the victim was shot as a result of an armed robbery gone wrong. When she exited her apartment this morning, the robber, reportedly of Chechen nationality, was waiting by the entrance. When she resisted, he shot her. A witness saw him ripping gold earrings off her and searching her body for valuables. When the criminal noticed the witness, he quickly grabbed the victim’s purse and overnight bag and sprinted away. We have the perpetrator’s description and are currently on his trail. We’ll let you know when something surfaces. It seems an open and shut case, but if you remember anything else, please give me a call.”

With these words, he handed me his card and threw the door open, waiting for me to vacate the apartment.

Obediently, I headed for the exit, but paused in the doorway. “Captain Davidenko,” I said. “I think you are making a huge mistake. This is not a simple robbery. I feel it in my gut.”

“Terrific,” he said in a manner which for this man was the closest it would ever get to a sarcasm. “And what do you want me to do with your gut feeling? File it together with evidence into the case? Present it in court? Or report it to my boss?”

He paused and gave me a probing look. “Unless you are not telling me everything?” I held his glance, with some difficulty. What could I say, the man was perceptive. And perhaps I was wrong not to trust him with more? I had mixed feelings about this and decided that I could always go back and talk to him…should I change my mind later.

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