Black Storm Over the Caspian

Chapter Twelve

          “So, you are saying, Mr. O’Rourke, that your vice president is afraid for his life. Do you care to expand on that a bit.”

          Over stacks of pancakes and cups of hot coffee, Sean repeated what Andy had written to him. The ambassador listened very quietly but said nothing and did not interrupt.

          “Are you sure the man is not exaggerating?”

          “Mr. Douglas served twenty-five years as a detective on the NYPD. He is a very experienced man; he came to us highly recommended. I have complete trust in him. If he says he fears for his life, then he really does.”

          “Whom do you propose to take with you to the hotel?”

          “The three men with me. I do not expect any trouble. Do you?”

          “I do not but, just to be on the safe side, I want you to take a police inspector, Major Boris Katunov. He will open closed doors. We have worked with him, and he is to be trusted. Do not carry any firearms, please. I do not want an international incident.”

          “Understood, sir. If there are no more problems, we’d better be on our way. We’ll report to you before we take off for the States. Thank you for your help.”

          “My driver will take you. On the way he will pick up the Major who has already been notified. Good luck to all of you.”

          It had snowed the night before, so the man used extreme care in maneuvering the big Cadillac down Kachalova Prospekt[6], one of the broad avenues leading to Red Square. The four passengers remained quiet and alert. Victor had no idea what to expect at the hotel. The theft of the plutonium was bad enough, but Andy’s misgivings about his safety were even worse. Ten minutes into the drive, the chauffeur made a left turn, moved quietly along a narrow street, and stopped before a police station. He went inside, re-appeared five minutes later with two policemen, one of whom carried the ubiquitous AK-47. The Major introduced himself and his assistant. Karp translated immediately.

          Victor told his interpreter, “Karp, tell the man that I am very happy to have the AK on my side for a change.”

          The Major grinned and saluted. The driver regained the main road and brought the car to a stop at the edge of Red Square. Victor and the other Americans could only stare at the vast expanse of brick and concrete. The immense walls made up the face of the Kremlin, a city within a city, that housed the administration center of the Russian State, and which was made famous in legend and literature, especially espionage writings. The driver turned left and headed for the hotel, located appropriately enough on Karl Marx Prospekt. He passed Revolution Square housing the Lenin Museum and came to Teatralnaya Square bounded on three sides by theaters, including the world-famous Bolshoi, and a Metro Station. The driver circled an ornate fountain in the center of the square decorated with statues aptly called, “Cupids at Play” and came to a stop in front of the Metropole, an imposing hotel built in 1903 in the fashionable style of the day.

          Sean got out first and waited for the others. He looked at the large mural and recognized it as the Dream Princess. The Irishman saw nothing suspicious about the human traffic moving in or out of the building. The policeman carrying the rifle remained by the door as Sean and the Major approached the desk, an elaborate and ornate affair staffed by several clerks. The policeman showed his badge and addressed the head clerk.

          “We wish to see an American by the name of Andy Douglas who is staying with two Russian scientists. Is he still here?”

          “He is in room 542; the lady is in room 540. You may go up.”

          “Please announce us.”

          Victor interrupted to say, “Sean, why don’t you and Karp wait down here? Settle the bill while I go up with the Major and Augie.”

          “You forget who’s the CEO of this outfit. However, I’m not above taking orders.”

          The clerk spoke briefly into the phone as the three men moved to the elevator. The Major pushed the button. The lift moved up slowly to the fifth floor. Victor led the way down the long quiet corridor. He knocked on 542.

          Andy opened the door.

          “I knew it. I just knew it. I wish I could say something historic at this moment besides glad to see you.”

          “So do I other than get your stuff together. We’re moving out. Let’s talk later. Sean is waiting downstairs with the cavalry.”

          The short Russian scientist, immediately after introductions, moved out in the hallway and knocked on room 540. There followed a short exchange of words. The door opened and the striking woman, Nadia Petukhova, stepped out with her luggage. The Major led the way back to the elevator as Victor brought up the rear, making sure no one trailed his party. He began to get edgy as the lift descended to the lobby. Augie stared at the doctor and detected the familiar signs. He braced himself for trouble.

          Sean shook Andy’s hand before he turned and headed out the door. The black Cadillac was still in position next to the pavement.

          Victor broke the silence by saying, “We can’t all fit into the car. I’ll keep the little fellow, Karp and the Major. Sean, take the AK along just in case. We’ll meet at the Embassy.”

          The policeman sat in front with Sean as the driver pulled out from the curb. Then the world came to an end!

[6]Prospekt: means street in the Russian language.

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