Chapter 45

“Are you sure there's a Thai place?” Alex stared at her phone, trying to decipher if the place she was about to talk two miles to was actually an open and working restaurant.

“It’s weird, right?” Leo said. “Not something you would expect in Russia. But I have pictures from the place on Yelp taken two days ago. Someone left a crap review two hours ago.”

“A bad review?” Alex shook her head. “And we are still ordering about a hundred dollars of food? Seriously, how do you guys afford this?”

“The reviews on Yelp don’t matter.” Maya shouted from the couch.

“And the illegal gun business is very lucrative,” Leo said, sitting down with a large glass of water. “And we are crazy paranoid.”

Alex, cash in hand, started her long very cold walk to the Thai food place that was apparently still open and very popular. 

St. Peptersburg’s winters were just as cold as Alaska’s and she was feeling the bite. Had she lost her edge while out of state with the CSD? Had she gone soft? The new coat she had was good, but the chill crept in under the hem and over the collar. Hat. She should have got a hat. That was stupid, she knew better. It would have ruined this awesome hairstyle Maya had given her… wait.

She looked behind her in the reflection of a window and made sure to keep walking. There was definitely someone following her; female, five foot eight, one hundred and thirty pounds, grey trench coat, wide brimmed hat, and large sunglasses. Alex was pretty sure that the lady was even wearing black leather gloves. 

Alex kept walking the two miles to the restaurant, carefully keeping an eye on the windows behind her.

The woman walked like a professional killer, careful steps, measured following distance between her and Alex. She was even taking steps to make sure it didn’t look like she was following Alex. Stopping from time to time to look in a shop window and then walking slightly faster to catch back up.

Alex got to the restaurant and placed their order. The waiting room was okay and had a good view of the street. Alex pretended to be looking at her phone and watched as her tail ducked into an equally busy restaurant across the street. Lebanese? What in the world? Russia was so weird.

She couldn’t see if the woman was ordering anything across the street. If she was, it was probably just a drink. Did Lebanese restaurants have bars? In Russia they probably did. But waiting for food ordered after Alex was too risky a move, not that she’d have to wait until it was done and would already be paid up. But the safest bet was a drink at the bar.

Alex’s food came and she left quickly, leaving in the opposite direction of home. Her tail came out of the other restaurant and began following her. Right, time for some tricks.

The route home was as carefully timed and well plotted as a PacMan pattern. Alex wasn’t sure how she was doing it, but she was. She was just thinking of ways to dodge through the city and shake this woman and get home safely to her friends. A final cut through a club and out the back way finally lost her and Alex ran all the way home, the bag of food still in her hands.

She sprinted up the stairs into the apartment, slamming the door behind them.

“Super real!” she shouted. “Super followed! Super real!”

“You were followed?” Ray jumped up, like he expected someone else to come barreling though the door. Alex was only panting a little, still in shape from runs and her training.

“Not anymore.” Alex plunked down the food for the night. “I lost her. Even did a couple laps to make sure.” She looked pointedly at Maya and Leo.

“Sorry.” Maya. “Some of us are not secret agent girl.”

“You should be,” Alex said. “It would be so helpful for what you guys do.”

“What are we supposed to do next?” Sam was peering through the curtain, again.

“We have to get out of here. Soon.” Alex was in full blown bug-out-bag mode. 

“Maybe we should wait until mysterious follow-y lady goes away?” Sam said.

“Is she out there?” Alex’s heart dropped into her stomach. 

“I don’t know.” Sam looked back at her with exasperation. “I don’t know aha she looks like.”

Alex gave him a quick description and he went back to curtain twitching while Ray dove in and found his box of tofu pad Thai. Alex ran her hands through her hair.

“Are none of you panicking? Shouldn’t we get out of dodge.”

“We should wait.” Leo said, standing to retrieve her and Sam’s food. “Eat dinner and then leave at oh-dark-thirty. Not after you panicked and ran up the stairs like you were being chased by the boogie man.”

“I don’t like it.” Alex bounced in the balls of her feet. “I want to leave, now.”

“You have to like it.” Leo pushed a pair of chopsticks into her hands. “Because it’s what we have to do right now.”

Zoe FleischerComment