As I walked to the Mercedes, I had an uncomfortable pang in my stomach that something was not quite right here. That feeling probably had a lot to do with Oleg, whom I found absolutely disgusting. Oleg, with his beady, slit-like eyes, just seemed to be full of hatred. Not wanting to sit next to him, I slid into the back seat. Grigory, the manager of our Moscow office, sat in the back seat to my left. My husband, Danny then climbed into the front passenger seat beside Oleg, who started the car and pulled away from the curb.

As we turned out to the exit road, I looked out the window at the landscape of Russia in winter. It was very different, very depressing. A veneer of steel gray replaced those bright colors of summer and autumn. It was not a terribly cold day, maybe around 30 degrees, but the wind was howling, the sky was pale, and patches of dirty snow littered the ground. Something else was different, too. I watched for the usual turn onto the main road yet Oleg bypassed it, staying on the outer ring road that took us in a different direction. On previous trips, we had driven right out into heavy traffic. Now, no other cars were on this road. Oh well, I thought, Oleg must know a shortcut. I sat back, my eyes closing.

Some five minutes later, I heard Oleg mumbling something. I opened my eyes and saw his face in the rear-view mirror, wearing a look of concern. Although the ride seemed smooth, he was acting as if he were fighting the steering wheel. He said a few words in Russian to Grigory, who said there was a problem with a tire. Oleg yanked the car onto the right shoulder of the one-way road and stopped.

Then, with not a shred of warning, our world was turned upside down.

With dizzying suddenness, a long and baleful-looking black sedan, crept up behind us and screeched to a stop. By all appearances, it was a Zil – a Russian-made automobile that for many years were hardly ever seen except on the highways around Moscow, in the so-called “KGB lane,” that could only be used by KGB agents. Little wonder that the Zils send shudders down the spines of Russians everywhere.

Now, the shudders went down my spine, more so when I saw five men inside the Zil who looked and dressed much like Oleg all jump out and come right at the Mercedes. One of them pulled open the unlocked door beside me and he and another man reached in. Too stunned to react, I felt myself being dragged out of the car by my arms like a rag doll.

I was screaming now. I tried somehow to dig my heels into the asphalt of the road to break the momentum of my upper body but could feel myself being manhandled, my feet merely scraping the pavement as I was carried along and quickly forced into the back seat of the Zil.

With no control of my body, it was as if I was a spectator watching myself in a movie. I could hear my voice pleading and crying, feel hands holding me down, but my brain couldn’t process it all fast enough to realize that this was actually happening to me. I could also see, as if through a tunnel, that Danny had been pulled from the front seat of the Mercedes and was now in the back, flanked by two men, one of whom had a vice-like grip on the hair at the base of his neck – and Oleg turning around in the driver’s seat and waving his fist just inches from Danny’s face.

I tried calling out to him but nothing came out of my mouth. And in the next instant, the Mercedes had driven off with a great roar. I looked to follow its path down the road but almost immediately lost sight of it.

I was alone. Danny was gone and all I could see were two grotesque men holding me down, all I could smell was their foul breath. What was going to happen to me?

Was I about to be killed? Raped? Dumped on this isolated road? And why was this happening at all? What the hell was going on?