“Welcome to the Vaclav Havel Airport Prague. The local time is 5:02 pm, local temperature is 0⁰C. That’s 32⁰F for the American folks. Please stay seated until the plane has come to a stop and the seatbelt signs are off.”
Loosening my grip on the armrests, I leaned over to the woman sitting next to me and said, “Oh, so glad that’s over. Is Prague your final destination?” She glared at me and barked, “Yes!” She must be as tired as I am.
Standing in line at Passport Control, I kept reading and re-reading the letter Mark left for me. “Dear Jenny, Help! I’m at my mother’s, and things are bad.” Bad? What does he mean, bad? “Look for a tall man with dark hair. He’s a detective named Ludvik Myska. He will bring you to me. He thinks your name is Mimi Steel. The blood on this paper is not mine. Kisses.”
“Yes, that is me. Is this all you have? I thought tall, beautiful women came with a lot of baggage.”
Running to keep up with him, I said, “Is Mark in trouble? What is happening? Are we going to his mother’s?”
Strong, silent type described Ludvik. I did not get answers. Cold and gray described Prague; and dark, since the sun goes down so early in November. We climbed into a beautiful, black Mercedes sedan.
Catching my breath, I blurted, “Who are you?”
“I am, how do you say, private eye. Marek Kohout – your husband’s real name – hired me before he went missing. Do you not know his business?”
This all sounded like crazy talk, and my nerves were already shot from the flight. It was becoming all too clear that Mark was hiding something.
Gruffly, Ludvik asked me, “Are you hungry or anything because we’ll be on the road a couple of hours. Otherwise, please shut up.”
Once we left Prague it was even darker, and the forest closed in on us like one of Grimm’s fairy tales. Jet lag had caught up, and just like that, I was out.
When the car came to a stop, I heard Ludvik whispering into his phone, and he was angry. Before I was even fully awake, he wrenched open my door and I nearly fell out of the car.
“Are we here? It looks like the middle of nowhere.”
He growled, “Shut up! This is where you get out. I cannot take you all the way to Kutna Hora. It is too dangerous. You must follow this path about 300 meters. At the end is an old hotel. Go in and they will give you a key to a room.”
He drove off, leaving me standing alone. Shaking hard, I took some deep breaths and stepped onto the path and into the forest. All I needed now was an evil witch to jump out and my nightmare would be complete.
The hotel, more like a haunted house in ruins, had seen better days. There was no sign of an innkeeper, just a key on the desk for room 31. Creepy noises echoed everywhere and then, moaning! The innkeeper lay in a pool of blood, under the desk.
“Shit! Are you ok? Oh, my God! I need to find you help!” I was leaning over this poor man, when I felt a presence behind me. Slapping his hand around my mouth, Ludvik grabbed me, dragged me to my room, and shoved me onto the bed.
He hissed, “Stupid woman! Follow instructions, and don’t put your nose where it doesn’t belong!” Thrusting an old, wrinkled piece of paper in my face, “do what is on this paper! I will be back for you in the morning.”
My hands trembled. I had to cut my hair, dye it red, and wear a dress that was in the cupboard. I hadn’t slept in 35 hours, that came first.
October’s Focus on Fiction is on noir. I’m giving both fiction and noir a try all in one go.