May 16 = DAY 5 = Chapter 5

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Narcotics Smell like Acid and Poisonous Plants

The warehouse smelled like narcotic drugs.

As a nurse who worked in a hospital’s emergency room, Dree Clark had been around a lot of narcotics in her life. Considering that most pharmaceutical tablets were coated with a colored layer to differentiate one drug and dosage from another, you think they wouldn’t have much smell at all, but they did. There was a bitterness to narcotics, a smell of acid and salt, and a hint of an orange poisonous plant warning you not to eat it.

Despite the boxes stacked on shelves to the ceiling marked with innocuous logos and words like candles and souvenir keychains, the warehouse reeked of it.

Dree didn’t mention that, of course. There was no way she was going to tell the drug dealers she knew she was standing in the middle of tons of their stash.

She’d kept her hands on the laptop’s keyboard, just in case those jerks were distracted enough that she could send an email to somebody or notify the cops or something through the computer. But even though Kir continued to indulge in his tantrum about her not knowing Francis’s passwords and the driver was just standing around looking bored with his hands in his pockets, one or the other of them was always looking at what she was doing.

So she watched them out of the corner of her eye and tried to figure out who on Earth she would even contact with a computer anyway.

Maybe she should email her sister to say good-bye.

That way, Mandi could call their parents so at least they’d know something had happened to Dree, plus Mandi would know not to wait for Dree to get her any more money for her son Victor’s expensive autism therapies.

Victor’s sweet face, terrified by the world around him that he couldn’t comprehend, rose in Dree’s thoughts.


Plus, Maxence was out there somewhere, and he’d obviously known he was being kidnapped. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have shoved his phone in her hand with it already calling someone so she could tell them what had happened. Something had caused Max to have that sudden change of heart. One minute, he’d been insisting Dree go with them so she would be safe, and a few seconds later, something had made him shove her into the crowd, shouting at her to run.

He was in danger, too.

And she needed to find him. When Maxence’s motorcycle had broken down in Nepal, she’d promised she would always come find him.

So, she had to get away.

It was that simple. She just had to.

Dree waited, standing motionless for a few more minutes, while Kir Sokolov and his driver got into an argument in some harsh language she assumed was Russian.

Their shouting intensified. Their hand gestures widened.

Their voices bounced around the bare steel support beams and aluminum siding.

It was getting pretty chilly in the warehouse with the wind blowing in the open garage door back by the van.




Dree tugged her white and silver cape more closely around herself, thinking hard.

A lot of joke websites had popped up during the last political election in the States, and Dree wracked her brain, trying to remember their website addresses until she finally came up with one.

She clicked the URL bar, typed in the address, and then said, “That’s weird,” just as the screen flashed red and black and a siren started blaring. She exclaimed, “Oh, my gosh! What’s it doing?”

Kir Sokolov jumped toward the computer and shoved her out of the way. “What did you do to it?”

“Nothing! The bank website must have been hacked. I was just sitting there trying some different passwords that Francis used, and all of a sudden, it wigged out!”

“You went to a porn website!” Kir Sokolov accused her.

Dree gasped, laying her hand at the base of her neck like she was clutching her pearls. “I did not! Just because you got a computer virus when you were watching porn doesn’t mean that’s the only way to get one!”

The computer screen stopped flashing and turned to a truly obscene animated graphic of a man wearing a plaid shirt and sporting a chode the size of a fireplace log, abusing a cartoon pig.

The computer blared, “Hey everybody! I’m watching porn!”

Sokolov began stabbing the keyboard frantically with his fingers. “No, no, no. Not this computer!”

These two buffoons had allowed a prisoner access to a vital computer? Oh, they deserved everything they were going to get.

Kir Sokolov and the driver kept shoving each other out of the way, trying to rescue the computer, and were thoroughly occupied with their technical problem.

Dree began backing away.

The computer screen changed to a different animated graphic of another man grabbing his butthole and yanking it until it appeared to be a foot wide. The computer yelled again for everybody to notice it was showing porn.

The two men flinched and then redoubled their efforts to regain control of the computer.

Dree made it past the van to the garage door, and she slipped around the side and into the night.

The winter night was colder than the warehouse had been inside. She began running through the parking lot toward the dark street. The frigid wind sliced through her thin ball gown.

Gravel slid under her high-heeled shoes, which she hadn’t known were worth thousands of dollars but Kir Sokolov had been pretty sure of it. Still, slipping and sliding, she made it to the road, which seemed to be in a semi-industrial part of the French town.

The bright lights of traffic flickered in the dark street at an intersection just a hundred yards away.

Dree ran.

If she could reach that intersection, there should be more people around, and she could probably find a store or a hotel to duck into and lose her kidnappers. Maybe she could figure out how to use Max’s cell phone that she’d shoved into her bra, but it was probably locked, and she didn’t know his PIN and couldn’t figure out any other way to unlock it off the top of her head. Or maybe she could find a store clerk to call the police for her, if she could communicate with him somehow. Dree didn’t speak French.

Tall skinny trees lined the road, a dark wall on the side. If somebody was following her, she’d veer off the road and go overland.

She couldn’t hear any cars behind her, but her breath was rasping in her ears and her heart was trying to beat its way out of her chest as she pumped her legs and sprinted on the asphalt road. Dree was not a runner.

At the intersection, the fenced-in lots on the corners were dark, closed for the night. The block building with a sign that bore a car and a wrench was probably an auto mechanic.

All the way down the street, the empty road sliced between darkened businesses. The plants, leafless for the winter, swayed in the cold wind. If she’d been in New Mexico, a tumbleweed would’ve rolled across the road at that point.

Dree kept walking through the commercial area of town. Streetlights poured yellow light at the street like spilling mustard.

Her shoes’ straps dug into her feet, and her arches were beginning to cramp.

A block down the road, and a stoplight blinked on a cross street. Dree jaywalked against the red light to get to the other side of the street because if the police came out of nowhere and arrested her, that would be just fine.

But none did.

As she peered down the street, cars crossed the road a few blocks farther away.

Dree got to walking. She ignored the pain in her feet and in her shoulders where those goons had wrenched her joints when she’d been tied up. She needed to get to that street, and it was just a matter of time until she got to that street.

Graffiti scrawled on the buildings, and Dree wished she could read French. Dead grass spiked up between the panels of sidewalk and poked her ankles.

Dree finally got to the intersection with the more heavily traveled street, but there were just a few taillights off in the distance in one direction, and one set of white-blazing headlights coming from the other.

As the headlights neared, Dree jumped up and down, screaming “Hey!” and waving her dress’s jacket like a white flag.

The sedan slowed and pulled over next to her, obviously having seen her distress.

She was saved. She was saved!

Dree pounded on the car’s window as the glass slid down. “Oh, thank you! Do you speak English? I need the police. Policía? No, that’s Spanish. I don’t speak French. No parlor Frenchy. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Ustedes hablan español?”

The back doors of the car flapped open.

Inside the car’s front seat, a matronly looking woman with mahogany- and oak-colored hair smiled at her. “Dree Clark, imagine finding you here.”

Dree backpedaled, but two thugs had already emerged from the back seat. She only ran a few steps backward before they grabbed her. They forced her into the back seat.

Matryona Sokolov swiveled in her seat, shaking her finger and tutting at Dree. “You should not try to get away. You don’t want to make me angry. Next time, I would send someone much worse than my brother Kir to find you.”