Claire Milton buys a lacquer box at Moscow's craft market and finds herself the target of a ring of nuclear weapons smugglers. She has nowhere to turn for help except to her Shamanic spirit animal which isn't even real, or is it?
"With The Lacquer Box, Ann Simon has combined the DNA of a classic Soviet-era international thriller with a supernatural spine tingler. The story of Claire Milton, an ex-pat's wife and reluctant heroine, twists and turns, weaving high-tech espionage with spiritual joyrneying and good old-fashioned skullduggery." best-selling author, Ben Winters
"The story is GREAT, the writing is crisp and just so good, the characters are perfect: I like Claire and Jack, and despise all the guys I'm supposed to despise. The change of scenery from Moscow to Siberia is seamless, and the Siberian experience fascinating. . . a terrific writer!" Helene Chirinian former editor for RGA/Lowell House
A fast-paced mix of Archangel and The Golden Compass!
Scrounge Man grabbed her left arm and, before she could even think of resisting, dragged her through the door and the few steps to the corner. As he began to draw her into the lonely dark of a long archway, a pulse of adrenalin shook her, and she pulled back with strength enhanced by fear. Nevertheless, he dragged her under the fifteen foot archway between the buildings on either side. She looked frantically about, but all the people behind them walking down Lesnaya seemed purposefully intent on their own concerns. Can they not see? As loud as she could, she belted out, “Help me!”
A few eyes slid her way, but Muscovites embraced the big city perspective: it was safest to mind one’s own business. No one did more than quickly glance at the ferocious man hauling a resisting woman into the center of the dark tunnel.
Just past the long arch on the left, was the high wrought iron fence surrounding the grounds of their apartment complex. Further ahead on the right was the Marriott Hotel. To outsiders, where she was held was a blind spot.
Scrounge Man pushed her elbows, forcing her back against the cold stone of the tunnel wall. He shouted incomprehensible threats. He smelled. His eyes flicked to his right and lingered a moment. Claire followed his gaze, hoping it would prove to be a pedestrian coming towards them, any sort of interference at all.
Yes! In front of the Marriott, a large, bulky man turned his head in their direction, and with him, a tall, sinewy one. Against the bright sun, they were merely two shadows with longer shadows darkening the sidewalk in front of them, one bulky and one thin and serpentine. The thin man seemed vaguely familiar. She strained toward them.
For the life of her, she couldn’t think of how to say “help me” in Russian. She resorted to the English version, screaming, “Help!” again. The bulky man deliberately, slowly turned away.
Scrounge Man took a half step back and released her left arm, pointed to his head and then to her head, his throaty voice pounding at her.
She could make out the words "bailey shopka," something about a white hat, about his hat and hers which, when she thought about it, was a sort of feminine, cleaner variation of his own. He was terrorizing her because he wanted her hat?
Figuring nothing ventured, nothing gained, Claire yanked it off her head and pushed it at him. He looked incredulous and shoved her hand away. She was again attacked with a jumble of fast syllables. One of his hands held fast to her coat. The thumb and forefinger of other indicated a rectangular shape and then reached for her tote bag. The box! He was still after the box.
“I don’t have it. Menya nyet.” She shook her head rapidly and held the bag firmly up on her right shoulder, her elbow locking it to her side.
“Yest! Menya di-eetey." He waited a moment as her mind cycled through the translation, “You have it. Give it to me.”
Claire stared him straight in the eye. She had no intention of obeying this nasty, little man. She shook her head slowly, vehemently. Then, with a spark of hope, she felt the electric aura of Jaguar standing with her. She straightened up with confidence.
That’s when he pulled the knife. His hand smoothly slid to his right hip, and, small and malicious, the knife appeared.
That just made her mad. She didn’t care if he understood her or not. “I don’t think so.”
Stress slowed down time. She knew exactly what to do and had plenty of time to do it. Continuing to stare into his eyes, she angled sideways into his left arm, the one clamped onto her right. She had time to feel her thigh muscles contract as she raised her right leg, right knee crossing her left, and then slammed her foot into his shin.
She knew, then, that time stood still because of what she saw. While logically there wasn’t space for them, standing between her and Scrounge Man were a shadowy Jaguar and the small form of Badger, the same shape, it came to her, that she had tripped over back in the parahoad. Jaguar’s right forepaw swatted down, crushing Badger’s head against the sidewalk. Her jaws crunched on Badger’s leg. It wasn’t until then that Claire heard the distinctive sound of Scrounge Man’s shin bone snapping.
Time roared back to reality. Her heart felt like cleats running in her chest. The hazy animals in front of her faded, accompanied by the acrid aroma of ozone. Scrounge Man fell, screaming, grabbing his leg. Claire exhaled in satisfaction.