Monsieur Pierre Christoph opened one bleary eye, then the other. The wooden room creaked and rocked slightly underneath him. He leaned against a soft red cushion and noticed, with some confusion, that he sat on a short bench with his ankle chained to the floor. A single gas lantern swung hypnotically from the ceiling.
Zhang Yan slumped along her bench on the other side of the curved room. Her usually sleek hair was a knotted mass that could have served her as a blanket. Yan’s slow, rhythmic breaths and complete lack of concern about their situation, suggested that she suffered the same fate as Pierre.
Several minutes later, once Pierre surmised they were held captive onboard a small sailboat, Yan coughed violently and sat up straight.
“You didn’t have anything to do with this did you?” she immediately inquired.
“I should ask you the same thing Mademoiselle. But since someone captured both of us, I would hazard that neither of us is responsible.”
“Unless that’s what you want me to think.”
“Spoken like a paranoid intelligence operative, and here I was hoping we could trust one another.”
“Trust?” she spat. “Trust is what got us into this holding cell.” She frowned and looked at the bowed walls. “Are we on a ship?”
The door opened with a clunk and scrape.
“Ah, you are both awake,” a short man dressed in a conservative business suit observed. “Excellent, excellent. No ill effects I trust?”
Neither Pierre nor Yan replied.
“Under the circumstances, I’ll overlook your discourteous behavior.”
“Discourteous?” Pierre replied. “We were poisoned and taken captive. Why not simply invite us to join your cruise around the Mediterranean, instead of going to all that trouble?”
“It was not so much trouble, my friend. We knew about your meeting of course, and only had to bribe a few security officers to stay home sick. My apologies about the poison Madam,” he turned toward Yan. “Your late arrival affected our timetable.”
“Who are you?” she asked.
“My name is complicated and of little importance. However, my employer is most interested in meeting you both. I was told to bring you in alive, and I thought you might appreciate these cushions and the light. After all, we are not monsters! Well, I am not a monster anyway.”
“Where are you taking us?” Pierre asked.
Without another word, he left the room and barred the door.