Chapter 25 of The Holy Lance, a fantasy thriller

Chapter 25 brings a threat Krazavitskaya's way. As always, comments are welcome.

Chapter 25

Svetlana Krazavitskaya has heard nothing from the St. Petersburg police since their initial investigation into the kidnapping of Alexei. She considered calling his family in Kiev, but dismissed the notion almost immediately. Her lone encounter with them was so unpleasant that she resolved to have as little to do with them as possible for as long as her relationship with Alexei lasted. Sticking to that resolution has been relatively easy. What has not been easy is coming to the realization that Alexei’s kidnapping is considered by those charged with protecting her as not much more than a temporary nuisance to be recorded and filed away at the bottom of a pile of similarly ignored crimes. Krazavitskaya’s low regard for government officials was largely theoretical until Alexei disappeared. That low regard is now grounded in an experience that has left her feeling as vulnerable and insignificant as, in truth, she is. It has been her habit since that day to spend as much time away from her apartment as possible, seeking the protection she assumes comes from being in crowded public spaces. A sidewalk café on a busy St. Petersburg boulevard provides this afternoon’s fragile sense of safety.

She sits alone at a small round table near the café’s entrance reading Gogol’s The Government Inspector, smoking a cigarette, and drinking a cup of black coffee. Dmitri Bogdanov, dressed casually in blue jeans and a sweater, startles her when he suddenly pulls a chair up to the table and sits down. Krazavitskaya closes her book and stares at him. A waiter comes over, but Bogdanov waves him off.

“The answer is ‘No,’” Krazavitskaya says abruptly.

Bogdanov smiles.

“You haven’t heard the question.”

She scolds him in response.

“Don’t be foolish. Do you think you’re the first man to sit down next to me? I know the question. I’ve heard it dozens of times.”

Bogdanov, without looking at her, asks, “Is that what you said to Alexei?”

The question startles Krazavitskaya, but she tries to remain calm. She takes a deep drag on her cigarette, holds it for a moment, and exhales.

“How do you know Alexei?”

“I am closer to him these days then you are.”

Bogdanov’s menacing tone has the desired effect. Krazavitskaya’s hand trembles as she takes another drag of her cigarette.

“What? What have you done with him?” The rising pitch of her voice betrays her fear.

Bogdanov ignores the question.

“He’s asking for you.”

“Go to hell!”

Bogdanov shrugs, and slowly gets up to leave. Krazavitskaya puts her hand on his forearm.

“Wait. Sit down. Tell me what you want.”

Bogdanov remains standing.

“It is not what I want that matters. As I said, Alexei is asking for you. His happiness is important to me for reasons that are not of your concern.”

“Why not just kidnap me or bring him to me?”

Bogdanov takes his wallet out of his back pocket. He extracts a business card, turns it over, and shows Krazavitskaya a handwritten a number on the back of the card.

“Now you are being foolish, something I have no time for. If you want to see Alexei, call this number.”

He picks up her book, opens it, sets the card inside, and sets the book back on the table.

“Maybe I’ll just call the police instead!”

Bogdanov takes a deep breath and exhales. He leans over, and puts his clenched fists on the table so that his face is no more than six inches from hers.

“If you go to the police the small pieces of your body will never be found except by hungry vermin.”