The Mystery of the Russian Ransom

BOOK: The Mystery of the Russian Ransom
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Text copyright © 2014 by Roy MacGregor

Published in Canada by Tundra Books, a division of Random House of Canada Limited, One Toronto Street, Suite 300, Toronto, Ontario M5C 2V6

Published in the United States by Tundra Books of Northern New York,
P.O. Box 1030, Plattsburgh, New York 12901

Library of Congress Control Number: 2013940759

All rights reserved. The use of any part of this publication reproduced, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, or stored in a retrieval system, without the prior written consent of the publisher – or, in case of photocopying or other reprographic copying, a licence from the Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency – is an infringement of the copyright law.

Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication

MacGregor, Roy, 1948-, author
   The mystery of the Russian ransom / by Roy MacGregor.

(Screech Owls)
ISBN 978-1-77049-420-6 (pbk.). – ISBN 978-1-77049-425-1 (epub)

      I. Title. II. Series: MacGregor, Roy, 1948-. Screech Owls series.

PS8575.G84M99 2014         jC813′.54         C2013-903542-7
                                                                   C2013-903543-5

Designed by Jennifer Lum

www.tundrabooks.com

v3.1

For Craig “Flash” Gordon, the King of Monday Night Hockey.
Teammate, friend, lover of family, and the Detroit Red Wings.
May he skate forever.

1

M
y name is Sarah Cuthbertson. I am twelve years old. I have no idea where I am or what is going to happen to me. I am frightened.

I do not know how long I can write this without being caught. I do not know if I can even get this message out to anyone. In fact, I know nothing at all about what is going on or what this is all about. I am really, really scared.

We were on our way back to the hotel from the rink in Ufa. My hockey team, the Screech Owls,
had just finished their very first practice in Russia. We didn’t have the greatest workout – Muck said we were all suffering from jet lag and we should get back to our rooms and get some rest. I’m sharing with Jenny Staples, our backup goaltender, and Samantha Bennett – Sam – who is one of my two best friends on the team.

But I wasn’t tired. Nor was Travis, who is my other best friend as well as the captain of the Owls. It was a beautiful day outside. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and the sun was so bright it was sparkling on the fresh snow. Travis said we should walk back to the hotel while the others took the bus. He asked me if I would show him how to do this silly move I’ve been practicing. I just discovered it in practice last week when we went onto the ice right after a fresh flood. The pucks were still kind of wet, so I put the back of my stick blade on the puck, pushing down hard, and then quickly twirled the blade up so that it lifted the puck off the ice and left it sitting on top of the blade. Then I flipped the puck in the air and batted it straight into the net! A total fluke, but some of
the Owls saw it and went crazy, banging their sticks on the ice.

Apart from that, Travis, as team captain (I’m assistant), wanted to talk about how we could make sure Nish (the other assistant captain) didn’t get one of his insane ideas, like mooning the crowd or replacing the Russian flag at the rink with his stupid boxer shorts, and get the whole team in trouble. We are in a country where we don’t even speak the language (except for Dmitri Yakushev, of course, who lived in Russia before his family moved, and who plays right wing on the same line as me and Travis), and so we better assume that people might not appreciate a nut bar like Nish.

It wasn’t a long walk, just through Yakutova Park across ulitsa Lenina – which Dmitri says means “Lenin Street” – turn left on ulitsa Karla Marksa and keep on going for several blocks until you reach the Hotel Astoria, where the team is staying.

Muck said he had no problem with us walking. So Travis and I went off across the street at the light and headed in through the high arch that leads into the park.

We were just starting to talk about how to keep Nish under control when we got to this eternal flame that burns in the center of the park. There was a high stone monument there with names carved into it, but because Travis and I couldn’t even figure out the alphabet, let alone the language, we had no idea what it meant.

I was taking a picture of Trav standing next to it when he suddenly shouted for me to run.

I turned just in time to see three large men coming fast toward us. All three were wearing dark tracksuits and had black balaclavas covering their entire heads except for the eyes. I could see the eyes staring straight at us.

I thought there must be some mistake and they were going to run right past us, but before I could even take a step, they were on top of us.

One of the men knocked Travis down and pushed him hard into a snowbank that had been shoveled next to the monument.

The other two grabbed me. One of them pulled a dark cloth bag over my head.

After that, I could see nothing but darkness.

I screamed, but it sounded muffled, like I’d fallen into a well or something.

I heard Travis screaming for help, but that was muffled, too, and then I heard nothing.

I knew they were carrying me fast – I was bouncing on someone’s shoulder and it hurt. I struggled, but he was way too strong for me and it only made him squeeze tighter.

They threw me into a car or a van. I could feel leather seats and they were warm – the vehicle must have been waiting for them, its engine already running.

A door slammed hard behind me. Then another door and another, and then all I could hear was the tires spinning in the snow as the vehicle pulled away.

I have no idea where it took me. And no idea what will happen to me.

I’m scared.

2

W
ake up! Wake up! WAKE UP!

Travis Lindsay was running through the park, and as he ran he tried to force himself awake. His boots were slipping on the ice, the fresh-fallen snow spilling in over the tops and sliding, cold and wet, down around his ankles.

If I can feel that, he told himself, this must be real.

But it couldn’t be real! It had to be a nightmare! It made no more sense than those dreams he would
have as a little kid where green witches were chasing him and his feet sank into mud so he couldn’t run.

But he was running now. He could feel his feet slipping, his heart pounding, and his chest burning. He could hear his own breath, rasping and crying at the same time. He knew there were tears in his eyes. When he blinked, he could feel them freezing along his temples and down each cheek.

What else could it be but a nightmare?
He had seen three men running toward him and Sarah. He had felt one of them crash into him with the hardest check he had ever felt off the ice. He had lain there moaning as he tried to catch his breath, and seen the two other men grab Sarah, pull a dark cloth bag over her head, and race off with her back behind the bushes where they had been hiding.

When he got to his feet to go and help her, the man who had hit him struck him again. This time Travis spun and crashed face-first into the snowbank. Everything went black, then cold, as the snow slithered down his neck.

By the time Travis pulled free and shook the snow out of his eyes, the men were gone. He could
hear car doors slamming and the whine of tires trying to get a grip on the snow and ice.

And then there was nothing. No Sarah. No men wearing tracksuits and balaclavas. Nothing.

It
had
to be a nightmare.

But there was no waking up from this dream. He had never been so wide awake in his life. Travis knew this was real and that something horrible had just happened.

He ran through the park toward Karl Marx Street. He had to get to the hotel. He had to tell Muck what had happened.

Travis was running and crying, his feet trying to move so fast that twice he slipped and went down on the icy path. He ran past the little amusement park – closed up for the winter – and through the gates, slipping again as his boots sought traction.

A man saw Travis fall and hurried over to help, but Travis was already on his feet and yelling. “
I need help! Someone has kidnapped my friend! Can you please help me?

The man just stared at Travis, baffled. He said
something, but Travis had no idea what the man was saying.

Travis had no way of explaining. Hand signals might work for food and directions, but what hand signal could possibly say three men wearing balaclavas had just taken a twelve-year-old girl in broad daylight and made off with her?

Travis knocked snow off his leg and started running again. The man who had stopped to help stared after him as if the youngster were some sort of madman.

Down the streets, Travis ran, slipping and sliding, sometimes falling. He was forced to slow down where the sidewalks had yet to be shoveled and the snow was high. Whenever he saw a break in the cars, he moved out onto the road and ran along the side of the plowed street.

He could see the hotel. His chest was burning with pain. His eyes were stinging.
How was he going to explain? What were they going to do?

3

I
am trying to figure out what is going on here. I am in a sort of cell. It’s not a jail cell. I have a bed and a dresser. It is hardly a dungeon – the bedclothes are fresh and even pretty: red flowers on a pale yellow background. There is a picture on the wall, a nice winter scene with kids skating on an outdoor pond. The room is actually quite comfortable, almost like a hotel room, with a washroom and a shower off to the side. But there are no windows.

And the door is locked.

So far, I have seen only a woman. Or at least that’s the only face I have seen. The men who took me here in the car kept their faces hidden. I have no idea what they look like. But the woman hid nothing. She had on sort of a nurse uniform. She never smiled when she set me up in this room. Never smiled once. But she wasn’t mean or anything, just never smiled.

She went through my backpack. I think she was looking for a cell phone, but I don’t have one. She left my diary. She left the book I am reading. She left the deck of cards we used on the flight over to play Fish. She left my mirror and toothbrush and toothpaste and the little scissors I carry for my nails. I guess they aren’t worried about me trying to fight my way out of here!

Someone is coming.

It was the woman again. She was pushing a cart, and now I have a meal in front of me. I’m not as terrified as I was when the men grabbed me, and I’m not as scared as I was when they put me in this room. That doesn’t mean I’m not worried – I still get frightened
when I think about it. But I don’t think they plan to poison me – or starve me. In fact, the food smells good, though I really don’t feel like eating.

The soup is called borscht, she said. It is red and has cabbage in it and it’s delicious. The other plate is meatballs and spaghetti, and it’s delicious, too. They gave me pop to drink – a sweet orange pop. I’d rather have juice.

BOOK: The Mystery of the Russian Ransom
3.11Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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