“I do what?” I gasped hoping I’d misheard him.
“You let the Russians capture you.”
“Seeing as they’ve been trying to kill me most of this week, I’m not sure it’s such a good idea.”
“If they were trying to kill you, I’d be attending your funeral not talking with you.”
“I don’t know, a few have tried.”
“Don’t tell the Russians, they may see it as a challenge.”
I glared back at him, do psychos have a good sense of humour?
“So do we lead you to the Russians?”
“I don’t like this idea very much, how are you going to follow me?”
“You swallow this capsule, it’s a mini transmitter, works for up to three days.”
“Swallow that?” I gulped at the thought of it.
“I’m sure you’ve had worse things in your mouth, most women have.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Here,” he pulled a bottle of water from his coat pocket. “Take a swig of this, it’ll help.”
“I hope there’s no Mercury in this?”
“I haven’t got a clue.”
“I’ll bet you haven’t had to swallow one?”
“I have actually, and it saved my life.”
“Don’t tell me, it deflected the blade of a knife owned by a mad dervish in outer Mongolia, while you on a field trip supposedly collecting butterflies.”
“Fossils, actually—and no, it didn’t stop me being stabbed, it meant that when my car was stolen by the clown who was supposed to be acting as my guide, and I was left wandering in the Gobi Desert, the Yanks were able to get a fix on me from a satellite and I was subsequently rescued.
I nearly said, ‘Pity’, but that would have been rude. Instead I asked if he was really into fossils and palaeontology? “You wouldn’t believe me if I said I was.”
“You do tend to lie or avoid giving me any proof of what you claim.”
“Okay, yes I’m into fossils, did palaeo at Cambridge for three years. Now you’re going to ask me if I knew so and so, and as soon as you can, you’ll call them and ask them if they knew me.”
“Unlikely. Can’t say I know anyone who went to Cambridge. Now, Oxford, that’s different.”
“You know people from Oxford?”
“Oh oodles. When were you at Cambridge?”
“Never mind—I could have been lying,” he said blushing.
Feeling that I’d actually managed for a moment to pierce the armour he wore, and get through to the real man, I felt quite pleased and not about to let go. “I don’t think you were, and all I have to do is ask which student got temporarily lost in the Gobi Desert, and maybe a name will just pop up.”
“I doubt it. Who said I was a student?”
“I have a friend who’s a geologist, she’ll know who you are.”
“I was lying, Cathy.”
“I don’t think you were, I think that’s the only bit of true information you’ve told me.”
“Swallow the transmitter—please.” He held it in his hand, it resembled a large capsule as in medicine, a couple of centimetres long and perhaps one wide.
“I don’t think I can.”
“Just deep throat it.”
“You know when you’re um...you know?”
“No I don’t, what are you talking about?”
“No, what were you on about?”
“It doesn’t matter.”
“It does to me,” I knew full well what he was meaning but by playing thick and innocent, I had him squirming.
“Look it up on the internet.”
“Look up what?”
“I thought that was the name of the guy in the Watergate scandal.”
“I don’t know.”
“He died earlier this year. Brought down Tricky Dicky, tipped off the Washington Post.”
“Did he? Will you swallow the capsule?”
“How long has it been in your pocket?”
“It’s been inside a little plastic box.”
“Cathy, swallow the bloody thing before I shove it up your arse, it’ll have exactly the same effect.”
I took it and nearly choked to death as it lodged in my oesophagus. Another sip of water and down it went. “Will it go ping when it comes out?”
“Oh it won’t come out.” He looked incredulously at me.
“What?” I had visions of needing surgery to remove it.
“The outer coating dissolves and then it breaks up.”
“What? You mean I’ll have all sorts of small sharp objects in my gut?”
“No, it’s designed not to damage you.”
“Were you crapping components for weeks then?”
“I didn’t actually look.”
“What? You don’t look down the loo when you’ve...”
“No, why should I?”
“Well, to see how much and what colour and...”
“Cathy, too much information. If it gives you pleasure, that’s fine.”
“I suppose you don’t look at the toilet paper either?”
“No, why should I? Where’s it going to get me?”
“Keeps your knickers cleaner.”
“With some of the situations I’ve found myself in, that was the least of my worries.”
“I have a feeling I’m going to understand that statement a little better in a rather short time.”
“Could be? “ he said, “Shall we go?”
I went back to the Holiday Inn and in order to engage in detente with our Russian friends, I merely had to walk across the car park. As I went to get in my car, something hard was shoved in my back—I don’t think it was anything to do with deep throat, so that will dispel your concerns—“Please, Miss Watts, get into your car very slowly and quietly,” said gruff Russian accent.
“Who the hell are you?” I said pretending to be surprised—I was actually—but not buttock clenchingly so.
“NOW,” he said firmly and poked the gun barrel a bit harder into my back.
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