Chapter 3 – Dark Mess
The blow slammed Igor back up against the back of the door and knocked the breath out him. Whoever hit him was still hanging on to him. Pressing his body up against him to pin Igor’s arms while trying to get his hands up around Igor’s throat.
Igor struggled to get free as he wheezed to catch his breath. He managed to twist himself around enough to get one arm loose. Igor struggled to pull his assailant’s hands away from his neck.
Simultaneously, he braced himself against the wall with his legs to push the attacker away with his body. The man was strong and wiry, but still smaller than Igor. So, he was able to get enough leverage to push the man away from the wall and free his other arm.
The man pushed back, and Igor stopped resisting. Using the force of his attacker’s own strength to swing him back around against the wall. With both arms now free, Igor was able to jab him twice in the ribs.
It was hard to see where he hit the man in the dim light of the room, but he knew he connected well on the second blow based on the man’s grunt.
Igor wound up and twisted himself back for a right hook that he was sure to put his assailant down, but the man must have been able to see well in the dark or just had good reflexes because he twisted out of the way before Igor could hit him.
His fist bashed into the thin wooden door. He could feel it crack and splinter under the blow. Meantime, the man grabbed him around the waist again and pushed him back down the short hall between the wall and bathroom leading into the bedroom.
Igor tripped over something on the floor and lost his balance. He managed to twist in the direction he was falling in time to catch himself on the bed. He landed on the high soft mattress with his attacker furiously trying to pin him down.
His small size was no match for Igor though who managed to roll him off and jump back to his feet. The attacker tried to roll off to the other side, but not before Igor managed to nail him with a couple of more sharp jabs to his body. One seemed to land on a fleshy shoulder that didn’t do much damage, but the other connected with something bony that he knew had to have hurt his opponent. It hurt his knuckles as well, but Igor was satisfied with his blow.
Igor lunged around the bed toward the window and pulled back the thin curtains to let in more of the morning light. It didn’t improve the lighting much, but it was enough to see the switch.
He lunged toward it. It forced him to turn away from his enemy for a second. Igor felt the mattress moving as the shadowy figure jumped up onto the bed to reach him.
Igor managed to flip the light switch on, and light flooded the room as he turned to face his oncoming assailant once again.
But before he could twist back around, he felt a wicked blow across the back of his neck and Igor slumped to the floor at the foot of the bed as everything went dark once again.
Igor slowly came to on a hard surface. His head throbbed steadily, and for a few moments, he couldn’t remember what had happened or where he was. But then it all came back to him. Igor struggled to sit up, but the back of his head was still sore.
So, he laid back down and glanced around the dim room. Igor saw the faint outline of a bed off in the distance. Something seemed off, but he couldn’t quite place it as he tried to figure out what was wrong.
Then he realized that the lamp beside the bed was off. He had turned it on before getting knocked out. And the curtain was closed. Also, he was farther away from the bed than he last remembered. Igor was on the other side of the room as if he had been dragged away from it.
Igor heard someone moan on the other side of him. Igor jerked his head in that direction. There was a shadowy figure lying on the ground a little ways away from him just inside the bathroom door. Whoever it was moaned and half-whimpered as he rolled over and tried to push himself up.
Suddenly, a dark spot on the floor between them caught Igor’s eye. It looked like a weapon of some sort. He couldn’t tell what make or model, but as he squinted and moved closer, Igor realized that it was definitely a handgun.
The other man seemed to notice it about the same time. They both froze for half a second in the dark gloom. Igor couldn’t tell who it was because his features were hidden in the shadows. But the whites of his eyes seemed to recognize Igor as they squinted into an angry scowl.
They both lunged for the handgun at the same time. The other man was a bit closer and had taken advantage of Igor’s hesitation to get a head start. But he miscalculated his push-off and slammed his shoulder into the door before scrambling out around it.
It was long enough of a delay for Igor to wrap his hands around the gun and point it at the man’s face in front of him. The man growled furiously but was smart enough not to continue moving toward him. He lowered his head and pushed his face into the floor.
“Stand up slowly and flip on the light,” Igor ordered as he backed up to put some distance between them.
The man did as Igor ordered and when he turned around, Igor realized who it was. Vladimir.
“I didn’t kill Mr. Romanov,” Igor said. “Why are you trying to kill me?”
Vladimir squinted his eyes at Igor and shook his head.
“I’m not trying to kill you. You came to my room and attacked me. And now you are pointing a gun at me. How can you say something like that?”
“This is your room? I was told that this was my room earlier.”
Igor continued pointing the gun in Vladimir’s face but turned slightly to glance around the room a few times. His eyes flitting back and forth between the setting behind him and the man in front of him. It was different. This wasn’t the same room where he had been attacked, the door to the bathroom was in a different location than the one he had walked into earlier.
“Why am I here? Why did you bring me here?” Igor demanded to know.
“You’re crazier than I thought! You came in here and attacked me.” Vladimir growled.
“No, I walked into my room, and I was attacked. I pulled the curtain partially off the rod before getting knocked out. Someone must have brought me here. If we go to my room, you’ll see where the curtain is torn. And there is a dent in the door where I tried to punch the person who attacked me. There is no dent here in this door. Someone brought me here. If it wasn’t you then who?”
Igor knew that he had to convince his nemesis of his innocence quickly before he had a chance to hurt him. He didn’t want to have to harm Vladimir if he wasn’t guilty of anything. Igor knew that he was in enough trouble as it was without making another enemy.
“Why am I in your room?” Igor demanded. “Where is the room I was staying in?”
“Across the hall and two doors down. I don’t know how I got into the bathroom. After the police left, Max and I walked around looking for clues to what happened. Then I came to lay down. That’s the last thing I remember before waking up here with you in my room.”
Igor pointed toward the door with the gun, indicating for Vladimir to go out into the hall. He glared at Vladimir for a few seconds as if analyzing the situation before complying.
Vladimir went across the hall and opened another door. Then slipped inside. Igor paused and pushed the door back open slowly so he could see where Vladimir was standing before entering. The lamp was still on, and the curtain torn partway off the rod as Igor had said. Vladimir continued to glare at him as if waiting for an explanation.
Igor flipped on the switch to the overhead light and closed the door behind him. He continued pointing the gun at Vladimir but nodded at the back of the door where his fist had bashed a large dent and splintered part of the wood.
“I think that whoever killed Mr. Romanov was trying to pit us against one another. They left the gun close to you and placed me in the room to look like I had attacked you.” Igor stated.
“You are fortunate that I didn’t get the gun before you. I would have killed you without hesitation.” Igor replied.
“So, I can give you your gun back now?” Igor asked questioningly. “You believe I’m innocent?”
Vladimir shrugged. “Maybe. I’m still not totally convinced that you aren’t involved. Maybe you set this up to fake your innocence and throw me off your trail. Or maybe your accomplice set you up.”
“Are there security cameras we can use to see what happened?” Igor asked.
Vladimir nodded and pointed back in the direction they had come from. Igor motioned to the door with his head and kept the gun pointed at the other man. They walked in silence down the hall.
When they arrived at the security room, it didn’t take long for Vladimir to let out a sigh of frustration. He didn’t need to say anything though.
Igor could see for himself that the feed had been cut off just before he arrived at his room. There was no way for them to know what had happened after he had been knocked out.
“Can you see where Max and Alexandra are now?”
Vladimir poked around on the security system. Max was out front where Igor had last seen him. The burly guard was leaning up against a pillar of the house still smoking away.
Then a pajama-clad Vladimir zoomed in on the guard out back behind the house. He started systematically checking camera feeds and making a list of numbers and names.
“Alexandra was in the kitchen when I went to my room. Can you rewind and see where she went to?” Igor asked, feeling nervous. He had a bad feeling about this.
Vladimir glanced at him and switched to the cameras in the kitchen. Alexandra wasn’t there any longer. Another woman behind a table seemed to be making preparations for breakfast.
“Can’t you rewind the camera there and see where she went or what direction she left in?” Igor asked.
Vladimir shook his head. “The whole system on that side of the house went offline. None of the cameras recorded anything for 15 minutes. Then they mysteriously came back on.”
“Can these feeds be controlled remotely, or would someone have had to have been here in the room to access the system?”
“The system is online, so it’s possible that someone hacked it and took over the controls from somewhere else. But why would they have done that right before you were attacked?”
“I don’t think this is about us,” Igor muttered. “I think that whoever killed Mr. Romanov came after Alexandra next. They just put us against each other as a distraction.”
Vladimir scowled at him and noticed that Igor was no longer pointing the gun in his direction.
“I don’t like that theory one bit. Not Alexandra,” he said as he jumped up and raced for the door.
Igor followed close behind as Vladimir ran for the kitchen. The poor woman almost jumped out of her skin when they burst through the door behind her, and breathlessly demanded to know if she had seen Alexandra.
She was a small woman who didn’t seem to speak much English or Russian because she couldn’t understand what they were asking her.
Her nametag said that her name was Bian. She jabbered away in a foreign language that Igor couldn’t place. He could tell it wasn’t Chinese even though she was definitely Asian.
Someone else came in from the other room where they must have heard the ruckus. This person understood what they were saying, but claimed she hadn’t seen Alexandra since she had arrived. They asked Hoa to translate for Bian, who understood the other woman perfectly and replied immediately.
“She say Ms. Alexandra leave kitchen with man. Go out back.”
“What did he look like?” Igor and Vladimir demanded simultaneously.
They both waited impatiently for Hoa to translate for the first woman. Bian seemed confused as she tried to recall what he looked like. She jabbered on incessantly.
“Bian no get good look at man’s face. He funny.”
“He was about this tall?” Igor asked as he raised his hand a little below his neck.
Hoa translated, and Bian nodded vigorously.
“His face looked white like he had a mask on?” Igor asked another question.
Bian smiled vigorously again as Hoa translated his question.
“Where does the back door lead to?” Igor demanded, asking both Hoa and Vladimir.
He didn’t bother waiting for an answer. He turned and raced out of the kitchen toward several doorways. Igor paused at each to open them and look inside. All but one were open. Igor smashed it open with the foot of his boot, but it was empty.
There was a door that led outside, but he also saw stairs leading back up to the second floor. Igor hesitated for half a second, trying to decide which way to go. He realized that if they had gone outside though, they would probably have gotten into a car and been long gone.
His only hope was that they were still in the large house somewhere while the short man with the white mask was still looking for something. Igor turned and raced up the stairs.
When he reached the top, Igor worked his way down the hall. Opening each door to see if anyone was inside. Most were empty. One room did have someone sleeping in one of the beds. Igor didn’t know who the woman was, but she didn’t look like Alexandra or the man they were searching for.
As he came out of the room, he realized that he had come back around in the direction of Mr. Romanov’s office where Igor had first met up with him the night before. The door was ajar, so Igor headed straight for it.
Vladimir had just come up the stairs and asked, “What are you doing? We were up here, and there is no one here. We need to cover the grounds outside. I’ve already contacted Max.”
Igor ignored him and pushed the door open slowly with his left foot while pointing the gun out in front of him. He didn’t see anyone in the room and slowly eased his way inside with Vladimir still complaining behind him.
He almost gave up in exasperation at Vladimir’s whining and pestering, but Igor gave a quick glance around the corner of the room and saw dark figures huddled up against the bookshelves.
Igor swung around and pointed the gun into the dark corner as he waited for his eyes to adjust to the dim light. He looked for the light switch, but it was on the other side of the room.
Vladimir had frozen behind him and couldn’t see what Igor saw. So, he motioned with his eyes to for Vladimir to flip the switch.
“What is it? I don’t read minds,” Vladimir growled.
“Turn on the light,” Igor hissed, still pointing the gun in the direction.
Vladimir took a step toward the door and turned on the lights. Igor could see Alexandra being held around the neck by a man who was smaller than her. The same white-masked face he had seen earlier in the bathrooms.
“Let her go,” Igor demanded.
“Put your gun down, or I will kill the woman,” the man hissed from behind her.
“He doesn’t have a gun,” Alexandra shouted.
“But I do have a knife, and I will cut her!” the man retorted. “Put the gun down unless you don’t care if she gets hurt.
“Shoot him in the forehead,” Vladimir shouted at Igor. “If you can’t do it, throw me the gun and I will.”
Igor was shocked and glanced at Vladimir. He wondered if the man was trying to send him a coded message or something. But before he could react, Vladimir leaped over in Igor’s direction and grabbed at the gun screaming.
“Kill him! Kill him!” Vladimir screamed over and over.
Igor was shocked at Vladimir’s strange behavior but didn’t let go of the weapon. He wrestled to keep his hold on the gun. Vladimir swept his feet out from under him and fell on top of him as Igor dropped to the floor.
They struggled for a few seconds, but Vladimir’s move had caught Igor off guard. Vladimir managed to twist the gun out of Igor’s hand and jumped back onto his feet. In the meantime, the small man had let go of Alexandra and taken advantage of their fight over the gun to race out of the room.
Vladimir raced out after him. Igor heard several shots fired. He struggled to get back on his feet, still wheezing from Vladimir’s elbow to his gut.
“You okay?” he asked Alexandra who was pulling herself from the floor against the desk on the other side of the room
She nodded, and he stepped forward to reach out a hand to help her up.
“Thank you,” she said with a shaky voice.
“What did he want?” Igor asked.
She shook her head and shrugged her shoulders. “He was going on about some paperwork that my father was going to sign on a business deal. He wanted them and said he was going to kill me too if I didn’t turn them over. He didn’t believe me when I said I didn’t know anything about them.”
“Did you recognize him or know who he might be?”
She shook her head and sat back down on one of the seats. Igor didn’t want to leave her there, but he wanted to go after Vladimir. Alexandra sensed the hesitation in his eyes.
“It’s okay. Go on. I’ll be fine now that he’s gone.”
He nodded and turned to leave.
“Igor,” she said, and he turned back around. “Thank you for saving me. I really do believe he would have killed me after getting what he wanted.”
The tall, blond man nodded in her direction and stepped out into the hall. Vladimir and the masked man were long gone. The woman he had seen lying in bed had woken up. She was peeking out the door to her room.
“What’s going on out there?” she demanded to know.
“It’s okay. You can come out. The man who killed Mr. Romanov was trying to steal something from Alexandra.” Igor replied and pointed to the office door.
She stepped out into the hallway, wrapped in her bedsheets. “Is Alex okay?” she asked.
He nodded and stepped aside as the woman went inside. Igor still didn’t like leaving Alexandra behind, but he felt better now that someone else was with her. He glanced back inside, and she seemed to be okay. Igor nodded at her once again and then went to look for Vladimir.
Continue Reading Chapter 4 – Chaos Reigns >>>