Andy Douglas began to think again as he followed the terrorists down the two flights of stairs. He shook off the feeling of despair that had overcome him when his assailants had so brazenly attacked the group and kidnapped him and his two Russian colleagues. He glanced at them. Both seemed resigned to their fate as they quietly moved along. He thought desperately that there had to be something he could do to help his old friend, Victor Cranston, whom he knew had taken up the chase.
He remembered old movie chases in which the pursued characters always managed to slow up the pursuit. Suddenly, he stumbled and brought down two men with him. All three floundered and rolled dangerously near the platform’s edge. The group leader looked back and shouted something that Andy thought was in the Russian language. A third man stepped forward and brought his rifle crashing down into Andy’s ribs. He let go of the two guards and howled in pain. The terrorists took no pity on him. No one helped him get up.
The leader walked back and snarled at Andy in perfect English.
“If you try anything like that again, you will be shot on the spot. Understand?”
Andy did not reply as he tried to place the man’s nationality. He sounded Western European or American. Douglas shook off the pain and moved along the now deserted subway platform to a door that led down a flight of stairs into the depths of the Moscow subway. He wondered where the doc was.
Victor Cranston had no idea what he would encounter as he led his party down the stairs. Fortunately, the crowds had thinned out at the first sign of trouble. He took his bearings as he listened to the sounds of running feet. To his right the platform ended abruptly at a wall and the tracks disappeared into a long, dark tunnel. Cranston looked left. The few waiting passengers had maneuvered against the wall, thus easing the way for the pursuers. Victor could not escape admiring the splendid architecture and cleanliness, nor could he miss the vast length and height of the station. He took a rough guess and estimated that the ceiling was perhaps thirty feet high and the platform at over five hundred feet in length. What really took his breath away was the large number of concrete pillars that supported the vault. He tipped his imaginary hat to the builders and understood why the Moscow Metro was the pride and joy of the Soviet Union. The regime had spared no expense in making the system the best in the world. Augie brought him back to reality.
“Where to, doc? Do you have another brilliant plan to confound the enemies of civilization?”
“All in good time, my friend. The bad guys could only have gone to the left.”
He moved off at a rapid pace, worrying about Andy and his companions gnawing at him.
He inquired of the police officer, “What lies in that direction? Are there stairs or escalators? We are moving blindly.”
“I believe there are escalators.”
Victor felt helpless and defeated. There was no way of knowing the kidnappers’ plans or destination. He needed help from the Russian authorities or the military. All exits from the vast system would have to be blocked for starters. That would be some undertaking. He came to the end of the platform and stopped. A short flight of circular stairs angled into the basement. Victor realized the futility of blind pursuit. However, at the moment he had no alternative but to stay on the terrorists’ trail in any way he could. Long moving stairs led upward occupied by escaping passengers. He spoke to the Russian Major.
“Ask them if they have seen the criminals.”
The policeman shouted something. Some people shook their heads in the negative; most said nothing, just stared in fright.
The Major turned to Victor, shrugged his shoulders, and pointed down.
“That settles it. I am going down along with anyone who wants to come along. I must stay on the trail. Major, return to the American Embassy as quickly as you can and report the situation to Mr. O’Rourke. Say to him that I request closing off the exits using the military if necessary. Karp, go along with him.”
“What will you do for interpreter? You don’t even have any weapons.”
“I’ll make out. Go back to St. Pete and keep an eye on the family.”
“Do you think…?”
“Anything is possible. Go now. Augie, Lin?”
Neither one answered. Victor grabbed their shoulders in affection and turned to watch the policeman and Karp move up the escalator. He took a deep breath to steady his nerves.
“If there are no more questions…”
As Victor took the first step down the stairs, he wondered about this Quixotic adventure. He would soon find out!