Claire didn’t see the bleeding man until he was upon her. The moment before his arrival she was just a tourist at the end of a wonderful day spent wandering around inside the magnificent walled city of Dubrovnik with a few minutes left before the last launch left port for her cruise ship anchored out in the harbor, whose next stop was a Greek island whose name she couldn’t remember.
She’d been debating whether or not to hike to the top one of the long, narrow and uneven stairways that ran from where she stood on Stradun, Dubrovnik’s main street, steeply up between cafes and residences on either side to the city’s walls. But that went out the window when barreled into her, almost knocking her over and definitely making her yelp in surprise. Furtively looking behind him, he looked directly into her eyes and murmured something in a language she didn’t understand before thrusting into her hand a bunched up and bloodied hankerchief. When she looked down at it she also saw he was bleeding pretty seriously from his stomach, but before she could do so much as say wait a minute, he’d staggered off past the statue of Orlando , disappearing into the thick crowd of Luza Square.
A flurry of questions jockeyed for position as she stared at the stained white cloth wrapping something that definitely had some heft but didn’t seem very large. Who was he? What happened to him? Why her? Did she dare look at whatever she was holding? Was he being chased?
The answer to that last question came quick when she saw four uniformed men running toward her on Stradun. One continued after the bleeding man while the other three quickly surrounded her. The shortest of the trio addressed her angrily again in a language she wasn’t familiar and ripped the hankerchief from her hands. Looking quickly at its contents Claire caught a telltale glint of sunlight off the object before he jammed it into his jacket pocket.
Whatever it was, it was gold! She looked at his face and he was smiling. Then he signaled to the goon behind her and she felt a pair of strong hands grasp her by the shoulders.
“But, wait! I don’t understand!” she yelled as she was forcibly turned and marched back up the street from where the men had come.
“Hey! Let go of me!” She tried to physically resist, but the goon behind her just picked her up off the ground and carried her. “Put me down! I have a ship! It’s about to leave!” she yelled at the backs of the two brutes in front of her.
“I’m an American!” And shorty looked over his shoulder and spat out a thickly accented “We know Ms. Darrow. We know all about you.”