The ring of the queen (t.., p.48
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       The Ring of the Queen (The Lost Tsar Trilogy Book 1), p.48

           Terri Dixon


  I know that, like every woman of the people, I have more strength than I appear to have.

  -Eva Peron

  A lump grew in my throat as the train came to a stop. We were in Moscow. We had come full circle. It had been less than two weeks. I couldn’t believe all that had happened. I hoped that it was soon coming to an end.

  Grigory escorted Boris, Tania and I from the train. I hadn't seen Boris for a while. I’d hoped that he’d gotten off in Tver, but he was persistent and was still with us. He looked sullen, like a schoolboy who was about to have to go back to school after a fun suspension. I wondered if he was there on his own or if he had been instructed to stay with us by Peter's grandmother.

  I was the first to walk out of the train, with Tania, Boris and Grigory successively behind me. Standing on the platform were Tish, another Russian military man, and an American in a dark suit. It was true what the Europeans say. At this point, even I could tell an American a mile away.

  What now? I wondered. I wanted to throw up again.

  Tish would personally blame me for her grandson being arrested by the mafia of a government. I didn’t want to discuss the matter with her. I didn’t even want to know who the other two were. I was at the point that I only wanted to see Peter, Steve and a pilot that could fly us home.

  As I approached them, Tish reached out to hug me. I was astonished. It scared me a little. She grabbed me with both arms and pulled me close to her. “Thank God you made it here all right, child. We will take care of everything soon.” She smiled at me.

  “I thought you would hate me for all of this.” I was wiping tears from my eyes. I was so nervous that all I could do was tear up.

  “Of course not. You are still a Tsarina to me. I contacted the American Consulate for some added help. I do not trust this crew to allow you to leave safely.” She gestured to the two military men. Then she went to Boris and hugged him. “You are a good man, taking care of these girls. Thank you.”

  “You are welcome.”

  Tish hugged Tania next. “How are you?”

  Tania was stammering from all the tension. “I’ll be okay, if we can get this over with. I want to go home.”

  The American in the suit stepped up to me. He was tall and large. He reminded me of a professional wrestler. He did have a kind face, with brown hair and blue eyes. “I’m Howard Van Zandt. I'm the American Ambassador to Russia.”

  I shook his hand. “I’m Stacie Zerbst. Thanks for coming to help me. I don’t know what I did, but I sure am having a lot of trouble going home.”

  “So I hear. I will see to it that you and your friend get home. I can’t stop the President from holding your Russian friends or from confiscating your ring. I want you to know that. I have no way of proving anything about the ring or your lineage at this point in time. I have no information on the subject. I will be happy to look into it at a future date when I can assign someone to investigate the claims of both you and the country of Russia. In the meantime, I will do everything I can to make sure that no one gets hurt in any way, and that you are allowed to return to the U.S.”

  He was a politician, but there was something familiar about him. "You seem familiar for some reason."

  "My father, Christian Van Zandt is a senator from Indiana," he replied. "My father is a personal friend of Mrs. Zinkov as well, so he will be helping in any way that he can. The consulate had been closed for several days by the government here, but Mrs. Zinkov managed to get things moving."

  The old broad liked me. Either that or she believed that I was a Tsarina. It didn’t matter. She did something for me. I was flattered. I looked at her and smiled. “I can’t thank you enough.”

  She almost blushed. I don’t think she was used to being seen as nice. “It had to be done. I also have to protect the boys. Peter is all I have left.”

  “What about Steve?”

  “It is like having two. They both mean the world to me.”

  The military man who had been waiting for us with Tish and Ambassador Van Zandt was getting impatient. “We have cars waiting. We must go. The President wishes to finish this meeting quickly. It has been a long and tedious process.”

  Grigory and Boris brought the luggage. I hoped that I wouldn’t have to open my luggage to get out of the country. I had Catherine the Great’s uniform hidden underneath all of Tish’s clothes that I had borrowed. I wanted to take that bag home just the way it was. I wasn't interested in my own things that I'd brought with me anymore.

  I got into another Russian Zil. I’d been riding around in monster Hummers and Nissan Pathfinders for days. It felt ethnic to ride in a Zil. I felt a little bit like a movie star. Tish rode in the car with me, Tania and Ambassador Van Zandt. The military man that I hadn’t met drove us. Boris and Grigory rode with another driver in a second Zil.

  “It is not far to the Kremlin.” Tish announced. “Do you intend to hand over the ring and walk away?”

  “What else can I do?”

  “Nothing. I wish that there was another answer. I've checked with all of the protocol and legal departments. You have to hand over the ring as they ask,” Ambassador Van Zandt explained.

  “Will they let Peter and Steve go if I do this?”

  “I hope so.” He didn’t say anything else.

  “There has to be something that we can do to ensure that they get to go home. I can’t just let them be hung, like some medieval criminals.”

  Tish smiled at me. “I like that you are concerned about them. I know that you have grown close in a short time. I see how my grandson looks at you and I see his expression every time he thinks or talks about you. It is good to see that you have such feelings too. I wish there was more that I could do for you kids and your romantic escapades, but I cannot allow you to stay together. I can ensure that they will be released once the ring has been turned over. I have arranged for them to escort you to the consulate after. That is all I can do. The Mafiosos fear my contacts some, but my influence is limited.”

  I’d wondered if Tish liked me or hated me. It had to be one or the other. Apparently she liked me. She was happy that I had feelings of her grandson. I hadn't anticipated that. I didn't know what to think. I didn't think that there would be any kind of a future, so the whole topic was mute.

  “I don’t suppose you would let him come back to the states with me?”

  I couldn’t believe that I’d said it. I didn’t want to be without Peter. Even I was surprised. There was something about that geeky but gentile man. I couldn’t stop thinking about him. I couldn’t stop thinking about the night at his grandmother’s house. I couldn’t bear the thought that I would never see him again.

  “I can protect him here” Tish said. “I cannot protect him half a world away. I have contacts here. If he were to go to the U.S. he would be vulnerable. These people will not go away. They will keep hounding and hurting people until they are stopped. The government can protect you, but they could do nothing for him. He is Russian. He will be safe here.”

  She was right. I knew it. I had to try. Ambassador Van Zandt smiled.

  “What?” I asked.

  “Peter made quite an impression on you.”

  “He’s an impressive guy. That’s more than I can say for most.”

  His smile faded immediately.

  “I have another favor to ask,” I said to Tish.

  “I hope that I can accommodate yet another favor.”

  “I wanted to take your bag back with me. I also wanted to take the coat. I’ll send everything back. I just don’t want to have to go through it right now. I’ll take it all home and send your things back.”

  “Keep them dear Consider them souvenirs.”

  “Are you sure you don’t mind?”

  Her expression was confused and amused. I couldn't tell her what I was up to, but she knew that I had a reason fo
r taking her things home with me. “I do not mind at all.”

  I tried to gather my thoughts as we drove across the center of Moscow. I was nervous and felt like throwing up. I looked out the window of the Zil as we made our way through city center on our way to the Kremlin. I didn’t know what the procedure was going to be once we got there. I hoped that it wouldn’t be too outrageous. I was sick and tired of feeling like I was living a full blown drama.

  The Ring of the Queen

  Part XXXXV

  We quarrel over power, not love.

  -Catherine the Great

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