Chapter 7 of The Holy Lance, a fantasy thriller

Here's chapter 7, at just under 1,200 words. The action continues in 21st century Russia with a kidnapping. As always, comments are welcome.

CHAPTER 7

Alexei Kotuzov, a gaunt, 24-year old, unshaven student, sits in the kitchen of his St. Petersburg, Russia, apartment.  He smokes a Belomorkanal cigarette as he reads the most recent edition of Delovoy Petersburg, a local business daily, through his wire-rimmed glasses. His dirty black hair is a tangled mess, and his clothes–blue jeans, a long-sleeved tie-dye t-shirt, and a leather vest–are all well-worn.

A single narrow window allows a sliver of daylight to grace the dirty, tiled walls. The kitchen’s only decoration is a Harley-Davidson calendar turned to the month of July. Barely-functioning, Soviet- era appliances litter the narrow counter space. The linoleum floor is worn to the point that the particle board subfloor shows through in circular patches. The kitchen table is topped with the same dated and worn linoleum. Kotuzov occupies one of two chrome kitchen chairs with stuffed seats covered in cracking black plastic. A small radio on the table plays Russian techno music.

He folds the newspaper, places it on the table, and extinguishes his cigarette in a green, plastic ashtray nearly overflowing with ashes and cigarette butts. He is just pushing back from the table to stand up when he hears the door to his apartment burst open. He turns to the door to see four men in black trench coats rush in. Instantly in full-on flight mode, Kotuzov scrambles for the small window at the far end of his kitchen. He fumbles with the latch for a moment, forces it open, and slides the right pane open by slamming it to the left as the first of the four men blows into the kitchen followed closely by the other three.

The first intruder sees Kotuzov grab the window sill to boost himself up and out of the window. The narrow window works to the intruder’s advantage as Kotuzov struggles to get his skinny frame through it. In an instant the intruder is on him. He grabs Kotuzov by the waist and is immediately joined by two others. Kotuzov kicks at the three of them and desperately holds onto the window frame, but his efforts are easily overcome. The men drag him away from the window, through the kitchen, and out into the apartment’s small front room, knocking nearly everything over or off the small counter onto the kitchen floor in the process. Kotuzov’s glasses come loose, fall to the floor, and are smashed in the melee.

The fourth intruder, the only one not participating in the ongoing wrestling bout with the overmatched Kotuzov, pulls a white rag from his trench coat pocket and places it over Kotuzov’s mouth and nose. Kotuzov ceases to struggle as he passes out. Two of the men carry Kotuzov out of the apartment by each grabbing a wrist with one arm, slinging Kotuzov’s arms over their shoulders, and wrapping their free arms around their victim’s waist. Kotuzov’s limp feet knock over a standing lamp. The men don’t stop to right the lamp, nor do they bother closing the apartment’s door as they exit less than 60 seconds after entering.

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Svetlana Krazavitskaya, 21 years old, thin, every inch the starving student, carries a bag of groceries purchased with great care given her lack of steady income. She lives on Gorsky Prospekt, in a section of St. Petersburg noted for its endless rows of Soviet-era high rises. As she approaches her apartment building’s front entrance she notices a late model, black Mercedes pulling quickly away from the sidewalk, and barely managing to avoid plowing into the moderately heavy traffic on the Prospekt. She stops for a moment after the car speeds by feeling as if she recognizes someone in the car. After a few seconds, she dismisses the idea and continues walking. She pulls a key from her jeans pocket and enters the building containing the apartment she shares with her current boyfriend, Alexei Kotuzov.

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The speeding Mercedes with the four kidnappers and their victim, unconscious and propped up by two of his attackers in the back seat, weaves in and out of traffic on Gorsky Prospekt. Dmitri Bogdanov, the man on Alexei Kotuzov’s left, pulls a small black box out of his overcoat. He opens the box, removes a full syringe from it, inspects and taps the syringe, and injects its contents into Kotuzov’s shoulder, just below his t-shirt sleeve. As Bogdanov removes the empty syringe from Alexei’s shoulder, the other man in the back seat, Sasha Krupsky, takes two plastic bags and a small pair of scissors from the interior breast pocket of his trench coat, clips a hair sample from Kotuzov, and puts the sample into the plastic bag. Then, using the blade of the scissors, he scrapes some skin cells from the back of Kotuzov’s right hand into the other plastic bag, seals both bags and puts them back into his trench coat’s breast pocket.

The car pulls over to the curb in front of a large, modern, office building and screeches to a halt. Krupsky opens the back door.

“Hand deliver the report. Stay off the cell phone,” the driver instructs him.

“Of course,” is Krupsky’s response as he gets out of the sedan.

Krupsky slams the door shut and the car once again accelerates away from the curve merging into the Prospekt’s increasingly heavy traffic.

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Svetlana Krazavitskaya notices the door to her apartment is ajar. From the building’s hallway she can hear the small kitchen radio playing her boyfriend’s favorite station. She enters the tiny living room which is more of a mess than usual. The bulb of the toppled standing lamp is broken. Krazavitskaya, still carrying the bag of groceries, cautiously heads for the kitchen.

“Alexei?” she calls tentatively.

The kitchen table is on its side. The radio hangs from an outlet by its cord and keeps blasting Russian techno music. She sets her groceries on the floor, turns of the radio, rights the table, and calls again as her alarm increases.

“Alexei?”

She bends down to pick up the bag of groceries and places them on the table. She then grabs the newspaper off of the floor and discovers Kotuzov’s smashed glasses. She turns and heads back into the apartment’s interior. She walks cautiously into the cramped, messy bedroom. A mattress with disheveled sheets is on the floor, books surround the mattress, and the walls are adorned with rock and roll posters from the 1960s. She notes that nothing in the bedroom is out of place. She walks back to the living room, picks up a phone on a side table next to a futon, and, her hands now trembling, punches in a number.

“I want to report a burglary and maybe a kidnapping. . . . Apartment 725, Gorsky Prospekt 1242. . . . Yes, please hurry. . . . Krazavitskaya, Svetlana Krazavitskaya. . . . Alexei Kutozov. Please hurry. . . . Of course, but please hurry.”