6 October 1999
Clara leapt out of the chair and backed away from the desk where Arion’s bleeding form lay. She frantically scanned the office for the deadly red dot but failed to find it. She gathered up as many of the loose papers as she could and stuffed them into her bag. The professor continued to stare sightlessly at her, his mouth open, his last words still hanging on his lips, while the red stain spread across his shirt.
She yanked the door open and ran out into the hallway, directly into a man’s arms. She pushed herself away, but the man, dressed in riot gear with words in Greek written across the front of his jacket as well as POLICE in large white letters, seized her wrist. Clara looked up into cold, blue eyes set in a bulldog face.
He pulled her back toward him. “Please, miss, don’t fight,” he said in thickly accented English. “I am trying to get you away from here.”
People emerged from the other offices. The man yelled something in Greek, and they all ran toward the stairwell, panic on their faces. The bulldog dashed down the hall after them, dragging Clara behind.
Outside the building, police pushed back the gathering crowd underneath Arion’s window. The bulldog, however, took Clara in the opposite direction, around the corner to the other side of the building. He stopped in the shade of a sycamore tree.
“Thank you,” Clara said, struggling to catch her breath.
But the bulldog didn’t let go of her wrist.
Clara tried to fight until he squeezed. She winced and started to cry out, but he jerked her arm, bringing her close enough to feel his hot breath. He held up a pistol and touched the muzzle to his lips.
Clara glared. “You wouldn’t shoot me, not here, not in broad daylight.”
The bulldog’s mouth twisted into a smile. He eyed the rooftop of a nearby building. “Who said anything about me shooting you? Now if you don’t want someone else to get hurt, you’ll keep your mouth shut. Don’t worry. We’re not going far.”
He led her a short distance to a circular building lined with Ionic columns, obviously much older than the one where Arion had his office. Instead of the main entrance, he pushed her toward a small door on the opposite side. It opened onto a set of stairs that led down into the dark. At the bottom a short hallway ended in another door. The bulldog pushed it open and forced Clara into a dim room. The only light came from a small lantern resting on a low table. Another man already waited there.
The bulldog slung Clara toward the man. “Here, Filip. Why don’t you do something useful and tie her hands. I can tell she’s not going to be an easy one to deal with.” His smile told Clara he was speaking English for her benefit.
The man he called Filip didn’t reply.
The bulldog began stripping out of his police clothes. “Sometime today, Filip. We need to get moving soon.”
Still Filip didn’t reply.
The bulldog paused and snapped his fingers. “Filip, did you hear me?”
Filip stepped toward him, into the lantern’s pool of light. When Clara saw his face, she gasped. It was the man who had recovered her wallet in the market.
“I heard you the first time,” her Good Samaritan said.
The bulldog’s eyes grew wide. He went for his gun, but before he could get to it, the man from the market fired a shot from his own. With a lurch, Clara’s captor collapsed to the floor.
The man turned toward Clara. “Are you all right?”
“No,” she replied. “No I’m not.”
“What happened? How did they grab you?”
“Hell if I know. I don’t even know who they are. One minute I’m talking to a professor in his office. The next he’s dead on his desk from a sniper’s bullet.”
The man swore in a language Clara didn’t know. If she had to guess, she would have said it was Russian. He reached for her. “We need to get you someplace safe.”
Clara jerked away. “That’s what he told me. Why should I trust you?”
“Because I very probably just saved your life. And I also did catch the pickpocket who stole your wallet, which is fortunate because you’re going to need your ID.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean we have to leave now. You can’t stay in Thessaloniki.”
Clara shook her head. “Oh, no. No. I’m not going anywhere with you. I’m going back, and I’m going to talk to the police—the real police—and I’m going to tell them what happened, and then I’m going to book the first ticket back to the U.S.”
“I’d advise against that.”
“Because like it or not, you’re in danger. And because then you’ll never know what happened to Adam.”
Clara’s heart skipped a beat. “How do you know about Adam?”
“I have an interest in finding him too.”
Clara tried to study his face in the low light. “Your name’s not Filip, is it? Who are you?”
He motioned with his head in the direction of a heap behind him. “Filip is indisposed at the moment. My name is Arkady Danilovich Markov.”
“Why are you looking for Adam? Does that mean he’s still alive? Is he in danger, too?”
Arkady held up a hand. “Questions later. Now we need to be going.”
Clara hesitated. “How do I know this isn’t another trick?”
Arkady sighed. “You don’t. I’m not forcing you to stay. You can go back, go talk to the police if you want, but just know that I’m your best chance to find Adam.” He paused. “As well as to live to see another sunrise.”
Clara struggled to calm her thoughts. A large part of her wanted to leave, to go back to her hotel, book a flight back to the States, and continue with her life. But something else tugged at her. She loved Adam, and he didn’t have anyone else.
She stepped back and motioned to the door. “Okay. Lead the way.”
Arkady shook his head. “No. We’re going the way your friend here was planning to take you.”
“And what way is that?” Clara asked.
Arkady picked up the lantern and opened a door behind him that Clara hadn’t noticed. “We’re taking the tunnels.”
They could have been walking for twenty minutes or two hours. Not long after Arkady led her through the door in the cellar room, the cramped tunnel opened enough that the weak lantern light left the walls in shadow. Occasionally Arkady gave her a curt warning to watch her step as they navigated around fallen stonework and other debris. Somewhere in the distance, water trickled.
“Where is this tunnel taking us?” Clara asked.
“Away from the university,” Arkady answered.
“How do we know there aren’t more of them waiting for us at the other end?”
“Because these tunnels run underneath most of the city. There are countless ways in and out. There’s no way for them to know where we’re going to end up.”
A lump formed in the pit of Clara’s stomach as she envisioned getting lost in miles and miles of pitch-black, maze-like tunnels. “How do we know where we’re going?”
“I know the way,” Arkady said. “Don’t worry.”
“If it’s all the same to you, I’ll worry until we’re back on the surface.”
Arkady laughed, but there wasn’t any humor in his voice.
At the first juncture they came to, he took a tunnel that branched to the right of the main tunnel. Almost immediately, the ground began to slope upward, and it wasn’t long before the light seeped back in. The walls of the tunnel were different here, made of brick rather than stone. Soon they came upon another door. Pushing it open, Arkady led her into another cellar. This one was filled with crates, most of them emblazoned with some sort of crest.
“Wine?” Clara asked.
“Olive oil,” Arkady corrected. “This house used to belong to a wealthy merchant family. They traded olive oil all over the Eastern Mediterranean.”
“Who does it belong to now?”
Clara followed Arkady across the cellar to a set of stairs. With each step she took, Clara’s sense of dread grew. Once they emerged on the floor above, Clara knew something was terribly wrong.
She forced down a wave of panic as she and Arkady made their way through rooms full of abandoned, crumbling furniture. Shadows moved, and voices whispered. Like a fog, tendrils of darkness writhed everywhere the light could not reach. Clara glanced at Arkady for any sign that he saw what she did. He didn’t look back at her, though his steps took on a new urgency. Once or twice, Clara caught glimpses of figures out of the corner of her eye—black, vaguely human shapes standing in otherwise vacant rooms. When they reached the front hallway of the house, Arkady practically sprinted for the door, dragging Clara with him. They emerged onto the street to find themselves at the market, just as the afternoon sun dipped behind the buildings.
Clara looked back at the house, only to discover the same looming façade she had passed earlier. Arkady glanced back as well, his face solemn. He muttered something under his breath Clara wasn’t able to catch before he offered his hand to her again.
“Come this way,” he said. “We have a long drive ahead of us.”