The director rose slowly, clearing his throat before addressing the members in the room. His deep, rough voice was soon drowned out by the English translator speaking softly in my ear. “I have come into some information that has led me to believe one of the board members is not to be trusted. From this point forward everything you can imagine will be tapped and you will be tailed until this leakage is taken care of.”At this point my heart rate increased rapidly, but I attempted to manage keeping calm and quickly glanced at my colleagues from around the room. The English man, Henry, braved a sip of his regular tea after nodding nonchalantly at the head of the table. The Russian woman, Antonia, flipped open her notebook and arranged her papers in front of her. Gerard, the infamous Irish construction man, also took stock in his fellow board members. The Italian, Matteo, didn’t seem too put off by this exclamation and continued scratching away on his little notepad. The Swiss gentleman, Alfred, readjusted his attire and cleared his throat, “Is that all?”The Russian director looked at the man that dared to defy his threat. He stood straighter pulling in his bulging middle to appear more menacing before countering. Again the English translator in my ear quickly told me the response. “No, that is not it. We will continue with the rest of the meeting. Alfred, what is your goal for this week? What can we expect to be accomplished?”Aside from that tense moment on the meeting continued as usual, each member gave him their respective goals for the week and he’d reiterate the need for a daily progress report. I didn’t realize I had been holding my breath until I walked out of the stuffy room, feeling intimidated to say the very least. It’s not every day you get threatened by the most prominent business man and mob boss in Russia.I reached my office and sighed at the slightly dilapidated look of the slanted “Rachel Devout” on the front of the door. That tape really wore off fast, I thought. I try to enjoy these ten minutes of freedom. My personal translator always had a break after the Monday board meetings, so I had time to decompress and let all the information sink in.Sometimes I wondered how the hell I became part of a lucrative business that was in the middle of an unorthodox investigation separated from all English-speaking relations by the Russian tundra. Perhaps it was of course because of my internship with the world-renowned firm, my availability to travel, and what was it my professor said “my aptly naïve mind ready to be sculpted by the raw world”. I wish I could talk to him right now, he would probably say to continue on as though nothing has changed, though be wary of the words you use.Finally my computer loaded, and I began to sift through the system to see if they had already installed a program to check over my communication. Since the quiet office was unsettling so I turned on some music. It was when I was in the chorus of my favorite song that the translator Anita entered, stifling a giggle at my off-key voice.My cheeks beet red, “Oh hi Anita, are you ready to talk with the team to see how program implementation is going?”“Yes,” she replied, following me to the company’s computer base. It wasn’t something I could get used to; the automatic standing up and waiting for my command when I entered. Honestly, it made me rather uncomfortable. So I quickly dismissed them with a “продолжать (proceed)” and walked directly to my main man Abram, thanking everyone above that he speaks a bit of English.“M’am e closse. All people ein system, now we link,” I smiled in return, glad the system for that company was finally filled out. I could connect the various subgroups and my crew could begin with another company under this gigantic firm’s regime.“Good. I’ll take it from here. Begin the O’Leary company.” Abram agreed and I left with my shadow that had now doubled. The first month was training with some trial and error processes. Then the last three months have been running smoothly, moving from company to company organizing all that they need. Let’s just say organization isn’t necessarily their forte. While at work for the rest of the day I couldn’t even breathe by myself, literally and figuratively. The director had this man, extremely keen on cigars, follow my every move. I believe his name is Arthur. He was content to puffing away, negligent to my discomfort as I adamantly did the finishing touches on the program for the local furniture stores and began setting up the next few projects.Ending with a progress report on The director’ desk, I stepped out into the cold, hugging myself dearly, shuffling behind Anita to the housing complex dedicated to the firm’s associates. The building had this statement appearance, but all hope of modernization capabilities were lost once you entered the dingy establishment. The crystal chandelier flickered, hiding the thick amount of dust and debris covering majority of the entrance hall. As always the attendant gave me a toothy grin as me and my shadows made our way to the stairs past the unkempt wallpaper and artistic displays.Anita gave her farewells and returned to the room adjacent to mine. I was desperately hoping Arthur would bid adieu but no, he instead he continued to invade my space. I ignored him and grabbed dinner items from the fridge. To not divert from the ordinary I turned on some music and began preparing my favorite busy dish. A few minutes later there was cough and “Vhat vou cook?”Plastering on a smile I replied, “Chicken Paprikash, my great-grandmother’s favorite.”He nodded and made himself comfortable on my meager couch flipping through a book. I sighed, wishing his English had been more fluent. “Arthur how long are you staying in here?”“Till ze camera e bugz are online.”It was my turn to nod and preoccupy myself with kneading the dough.He didn’t get the call until I was plating the noodles and pouring the sauce. The technology was working in my apartment and apparently tamperproof. I smiled as he reasoned he couldn’t continue working without a full stomach and was happy to make his own plate for dinner. We endured a terribly awkward dinner of broken English because my Russian was ridiculously limited.He left with a “восхитительный (delicious)” and a promise to see me early tomorrow morning. I told him it was not a problem and promptly turned up my music after the door locked.Glad this meal in particular had a clean-up process, I didn’t let my mind wander about the implications of the morning board meeting until the kitchen was pristine and the extra food put away.I was in a mobster movie. Someone on the board was a traitor in the director’s eyes and would pay dearly with their life for their discrepancies. I threw on a sweatshirt and comfortable pants, slightly dismayed it was still early in the night.I chose to write a letter to my best friend, Carrie. It contained the pleasantry basics, and then dived into the description of the Russian lifestyle. I had to feel close to her while I worried about what the next week would consist of, so I described in great detail various landmarks, the gorgeous historic buildings, and the cold weather. Relief washed over me when I finished, putting it in an unclosed envelope. I could and will make it through this week, I thought optimistically. I will mind my own business, I’m no detective. Raising suspicion by asking questions would do no good for my future. With that thought I got ready for bed. Changing my 50s music to soft piano songs, I prayed long and hard that I would be able to get out of this mess alive.******It was now day two under surveillance and filled with relief that the man had not remained in the small apartment, I bundled up and rushed out my door. I needn’t fear, my humble shadows were at the end of the hall waiting for me.“доброе утро (good morning)” was exchanged. The three of us made it through the blistering wind to the office building with oodles of time. I could honestly not wait to see how my colleagues were faring and shrug off this obnoxious parka I invested in. Getting comfortable had to wait until I dropped of my letter in the outgoing mailbox en route to my room.Truly the morning consisted of typing letters and answering questions for Anita while she translated what I wanted into Russian. This practice was exhausting, especially when things didn’t translate adequately and key technical words threw comprehension out the window.My coffee break could not have come at a better time. My daily ten minutes alone would be forgone as Arthur was replaced with Vadim (Вадим) who joined me in my refuge. I know he can’t speak English, I had tried conversing earlier and it was a train wreck. Therefore, I was thoroughly relieved with the finely dressed Italian man entered the company “break” room.“Ciao bella,” Matteo greeted me.“Ciao.” I returned to focusing on pouring the coffee into the cup.“We, the board members are going to dinner tonight. Care to join us?” I loved that he spoke my language. I actually had to force myself to think of anything but his overwhelming cologne as it washed over me as he reached above my head to grab a cup out of the cupboard. The tailored suit and slicked back hair gave him this aura of mystery that made me swoon. The best part was that he had manners.“Where are you going?” I tried to sound nonchalant as I turned, hiding my growing red cheeks.“Кафе друзей” I stared at him blankly. He chuckled, “It’s Café of Friends in downtown Moscow. I’ve heard many talk about it.”“Oh, sounds pleasant. Going right after close out?”“Sì, excuse me, por favore,” he replied, as he reached closely around me for the proper tools to fixed his prized espresso.“Well, see you then. I must get going to finish some work.” I left smiling with Vadim on my tail.The rest of the day couldn’t have gone fast enough before the board members and our shadows loaded into cars heading towards Moscow. Having been here a few months, I didn’t need a translator to order my food anymore so thankfully our group only took up a quarter of the restaurant instead of half.“So Antonia, what are you thinking about ordering?” I asked while checking over the menu.She brushed her long hair off her shoulder and turned her piercing eyes at me. “Sudak”“Mmm, well I think I’m getting пельмени.”Gerard sighed, “Again? Don’t you always get those meat wrapped in dough?”“Yes, but don’t you always get Ukha?” The entire table joined in laughter as the Irish man turned beet red.It seemed as though Alfred and Henry were the only ones not enjoying this excursion. They seemed almost determined to ignore us at all costs and speak between themselves in, I believe, French.I noticed how Gerard and Antonia seem to get their flirt on, much like Matteo and I. Then there were the gruff shadows or “protectors” as it was called in an email I received earlier. Those fellows love their liquor and are content with Russian.“So what you think of this idea of a spy?” Matteo demanded obnoxiously after the main course is finished, he had plenty of wine in his system. This statement silenced a large portion of the restaurant. “What do you think Alfred? It’s a little ridiculous- overboard, right?” the inebriate continues.Alfred’s face turned stony at being pulled into the man’s antics. “I don’t think it is your place to judge,” he replied sternly.“Oh did I offend?”My heart began to speed up, hoping this man will not provoke a fight. He is truly outnumbered and we do not need this attention. Right now was certainly the wrong time to get into this.“You offend all of us by acting in this manner, you insufferable fool,” Henry interjects.At this remark I begin to put on my coat. My change has just arrived. There is no reason to stay here any longer.“Rachel where do you think you’re going?”“To sleep. I’m tired and have paid. If you want to make a joke of yourself then by all means remain.”The group slowly gets up, following their body guards out the door. I choose to travel back with Henry, free from the intoxicated idiot.“Why do you think he said that in there?”“I don’t know my dear, fear and desperation causes us to do many things.”I couldn’t respond as we had pulled up to the apartment complex. What he said really rattled my bones! Were the weak of our group already beginning to crumble under the pressure? Did I miss some sign that the flirty Italian man could be guilty? My mind reeling, I barely noticed that I already reached my front door and had to quickly dig through my purse for my keys. The buff Russian told me sweet dreams as I went inside. It seemed sincere, but that tone had creepy all written over it.In bed, I tossed and turned from the moment I gotten back. Could it be the one of the two older gentlemen who made sure they were not associated with the young colleagues? Each seemed quite nice. I guess that Alfred didn’t get that massive scar on his face from pushing papers for environmental engineering company. He’d have enough life experiences to not get into this stuff, right?Each one of us has some questionable pasts I bet, but how does the director expect to find out? Are we to rat each other out? Tell our suspicions to someone or write them out? Or is his goal to make us as uncomfortable as possible?How can I seriously work? All I can think about now is how to analyze every encounter I have had over the past few months with my international colleagues. I guess I’ve seen too many crime shows on TV to think I can really figure it out.I turn on the piano music to settle my brain. I try my best to get a good night’s sleep to better take on tomorrow.****I cordially greet Arthur and Anita in the hall, before we embark on our journey through the freezing cold to work. Anita wraps her arm around my shoulders as we walk. Having her close makes me slightly more comfortable and ready to re-examine my relationships will the board members.Oddly Arthur remained outside my office and even closed the door after us. Anita didn’t say a thing about it, so I just broke out my computer and began examining the various systems in this complex network. The director was adamant about making all his conglomerates hook up to a system he could easily observe from the comfort of his office. It was a daunting task with his need to micro-manage and this Issue on the back of my mind.Breaks are a myth in this company. So I was ever relieved that Anita got a phone call and needed to leave for a few minutes. I bee-lined for the bathroom, having an excess amount of tea this morning. Utterly oblivious to Antonia who was in the other stall, talking in a whisper on the phone, I cleaned myself up at went to fix my hair when I noticed.Panic threatened to override my sense of well-being. So I fixed my hair and quickly left, making perfect time to enter as Anita was done with her phone call.My mind reeled, thinking of the many times I’ve seen Antonia since I’ve been in Russia. She’s always been by that Vlad (or something). They’re probably together, I decided after recalling the one time he gently helped her out of the car and she allowed his hand to remain around her waist.Before I could extend my train of thought, Anita pulled me back into reality. “Is this format okay?” I nodded continuing to focus on work for the morning. That’s when I noticed the little trinket at the edge of my desk. Probably some sort of recording device I surmised, I don’t recall placing a yellow bird there.Lunch was usually a re-heated soup, so I waited for the microwave timer to go off and hummed my favorite song in the break room. Completely in my own world, while checking to not burn myself, I missed Antonia’s entrance.Like a ninja she was in front of me as I turned around. I stifled a yell and saved my lunch from covering the disgusting floor. “Sorry Rachel.”“It’s fine, I didn’t hear you,” I returned the smile while attempting to slowly turn towards the door and around her.“You know I actually wanted to talk to you,” I gulped. “I don’t want you to read anything into me talking on the phone in the bathroom.”“I wasn’t going to,” I quickly retorted as Antonia slowly closed the distance between us.“I just wanted to make sure you knew that I was contacting my boyfriend. Vlad doesn’t know about him and never will,” she finished, invading my personal space.“No he won’t. I hope you have a great rest of the day,” I excused myself and nearly ran into Gerard who was coming out of a nearby office.“Sorry!”“It’s okay, it’s my fault. Enjoy your lunch,” He responded hastily as he turned into the lunch room.Again the challenges of the day caught up with me, so thinking about possible spies didn’t cross my mind until I walked through the blistering wind. There was a surprise waiting for me when I opened my door. A young woman with bleach blond hair and dark eyes framed by a navy sweater stood by the kitchen and said “Allo my name is Krista”.I turned with a raised eyebrow at my fateful shadow. Arthur told me to not worry (I think) before he walked off.“Hello I’m Rachel, but you probably know that,” I muttered the last bit. “What are you doing here?”“Too keep you safe. Men cannot stay with unmarried women. Just ignore me. I’ll read on the couch.”I stood there for a second examining the implications of her presence in my humble abode. I guess it was too long for my own good because she gave me a weird look and I quickly jumped into my routine.The night dragged on unbearably long. I made dinner to which she denied my offer. I couldn’t make any sense. Did they not place various recording devices around the apartment? Why was she here for “protection”? Those thoughts raced through my mind as I cleaned up and pulled out a favorite book and got comfortable opposite her in the living space.Both of us remained in those positions until the first round of yawns. I excused myself and prepared for bed. I came out to see her in pajamas and laying out sheets. She apparently didn’t need anything else and requested that I keep the door open. I obliged and only fell asleep after pointless minutes staring out into the snowy city, wondering what type of information could have been leaked to make The director act so aggressively toward the board.****Thursday passed by fairly quickly. The only unusual part was waking up to a woman making coffee and instructing me that her presence will continue as this snow storm continues to make monitoring the electric devices difficult. Apparently the wireless feeds are proving to be problematic. I told her she was fine, but needed to be aware that I needed to go to the market this evening. It was something Anita and I would always do together. She agreed and walked me out to Vadim and Anita in the lobby.Anita didn’t ask until we were safely in the office and defrosting. “Who was that?”“Krista is another body guard that will be staying with me until the director straightens out this issue.”“Oh how lovely,” she responded and I nodded-unsure if she was being sarcastic, I could never tell. “I expect that she will be coming with us to the market this evening.”“Yes.” After that brief conversation we carried on with our organizing and trouble translating questions.During a bathroom excursion, I notice Henry exit the same room Gerard has exited the previous day.What on earth could be in there I wondered? Of course I checked the way was clear and chose to poke my head in. Consequently thinking, curiosity kills the cat. The door even creaked obnoxiously as I whispered a hoarse “hello”. I ventured fully in to find a file room with papers and folders covering every inch. Curious, my hand reached forward to a nearby stack, intent on learning what this room was, but what stopped by a cleared throat behind me.I smiled and turned to face the unemotional the director. “I was just reaching to turn on the light. I saw the door open. ..”“Don’t let this happen again.” I nodded and retreated to my office for the rest of the day.For once I wasn’t looking forward to going to the market. There would be awkward silence and the party-pooper third wheel. I wanted to relax, but have been unable with this surveillance every night.It worked out nicely, Anita and I browsed while Krista lagged behind.“So who do you think it is?” Anita wondered mid-way through our trip.“I don’t know.”“You’ve obviously been thinking about something,” She looked at me skeptically with one eyebrow raised in disbelief. “Since Monday you have become increasingly subdued and withdrawn. What’s wrong?”At first I was taken aback by her frankness, disclosing personal information wasn’t a habit between us. “I’m scared.”Her face visibly softened as she pulled me in for a one-armed side hug. “You have nothing to worry about. He’s just trying to rattle your chains. You’re not a traitor. He’s trying to make someone else here unsettled.”“You think so?”“I know so. It’s how he works.”I nodded in response as we walked past a lovely jewelry establishment. “Don’t you want to check it out? We always go there.”“Actually do you want to head back? It’s freezing and our shadow is looking extremely uncomfortable.”“Of course,” I looked back at the out of place woman. “I thought snow was in your blood, you never get cold.”“It happens from time to time.”Us and our shadow returned to my apartment shortly afterward. Anita made some of her renowned dish while I read and practiced my Russian. After Krista gave up the tea, I went to sleep feeling slightly more content. *****Work was nothing. I smiled a bit more and readily agreed to another dinner with my colleagues.At another homely place the group gathered and I squished between Antonia and Matteo. He doesn’t act like a drunk and the older gentlemen join the conversation. Matteo raves about his ingenious aviation ideals, making Alfred comment about his knowledge of energy resources and his love of engineering. It’s amazing the way we click, our ability to decompress in each other’s presence. Forget the fact our boss would have no problem killing one of us if he gets a whiff of compromising connections. Let’s just laugh about our predicament and argue about which division is most prominent in society nowadays.Henry throws in his opinion that it’s the rulers of the country that make it or break it. If the people support them then mountains can be moved, while on the other hand if their reign is regretfully accepted then turmoil can be expected to ensue.I felt like I was at college surrounded by alpha males showing off to gain the attention of some sought after girl. It was hilarious to see theories and explanations shot down by gathered false information and their ultimate denial.Antonia and I could not stop laughing when Gerard told us this story about being a guest in a middle-eastern country and having the opportunity to eat the eye of a goat. His face was absolutely fantastic, probably looked similar to the day he had to plop that sucker in his mouth.Sadly the night had to come to an end. Unexpectedly, Krista was up brewing some tea when I returned. She offered me some and I curled up on the couch with a book. Pretty soon I fell into a deep sleep. *****I woke slowly, my head feeling fuzzy and I feel the room start to spin. She drugged me, Krista drugged me, I concluded. I let my eyes adjust to the light for a while longer, and then took in my surroundings. Above me hung this sketchy light bulb that didn’t highlight the details of my mostly dark cell. I could tell that I was lying on an old cot and covered in a scratchy blanket. Needless to say my work attire from Friday wasn’t distinctly warm or comfortable for this set up. Panic fills my entire being when I sit up, the space is so small. I check my accommodations and notice there’s a camera on the ceiling in a corner across from the cot, the door is dead bolted and there’s a small end table with some bread and water.No one came in or answered my yells. I didn’t matter how many times I screamed “you’ve got the wrong person” there was no acknowledgement from an outside source. Thankfully, I was given three instances to use the bathroom and escorted by a Klaus, though he refused to reply to anything I said. I refrained from pounding my fists against the wall in frustration after hours of solitude and resigned to cuddling up in the blanket on the cot. Cold air rushed through the space between the bottom of the door and the floor. I ran through all the possibilities. What would happen to me, what would my family or friends think if I never return? How in the world could he find me guilty of being a spy? I only sent letters to my best friend once in a while and email pictures of the city to my parents. My sister has only called me once and wished me good luck, letting me know her first job was going well.There is no reason to suspect me. Antonia probably wasn’t calling her boyfriend. Or maybe Gerard and Henry were in it together? A conspiracy? If it was a conspiracy then it’d make more sense that the leak was the director or one of his right-hand men and they’d just kill to cover up. I let out a sad laugh. I really need to stop watching those shows and reading those books.Eventually I fell asleep shivering and only eating half of the bread. ******I sprung awake as the door slammed open and Klaus entered looking downright vicious. “Are you ready to spill?”“I know nothing! Please tell him! He’s got the wrong girl!” I backed into the wall as far as I could get from his awful breath.“Why who do you think is the right one?”“Antonia,” I started but didn’t get a chance to give my explanation as he began laughing.“How does the information get to the source? The boss seems to think you know way more than you’ve let on!”“I know nothing! I just came here because I thought it was a great career opportunity! I guess that doesn’t mean anything to you!” I retorted extremely tired of repeating myself.“How about that letters you keep sending to your friend?”“What about them?”“Can you explain the scribbles at the bottom?”He showed be the scribbles. “These scratches? Those are parts where I messed up!”“Also, she lives in DC.”“So! Just because she work in the nation’s capital doesn’t mean she’s a government spy. Why would she care about what you guys are doing? She studied biology and is employed as a researcher with the Smithsonian Institution.”Klaus bit back his words and stormed out of the room.“Why do you go to that jewelry store every week?”“It’s Anita’s favorite store. Why does that matter?”Before he can answer there are a few knocks on the door and The director enters.“I am deeply sorry for this hiccup. I hope you will understand that mistakes are made and conclusions are jumped on. Arthur will return you to your apartment. Look forward to seeing you at the board meeting Monday.”Unbelievingly I am escorted to a car that takes me to my apartment. I was relieved to find Krista had vacated the premises. So I showered, cooked, and relaxed with some hot chocolate, my mind reeling.Could have one of the others confessed? Was this a false sense of security? Is it safe to stay here any longer?*****It was Monday. I slowly got ready, trying to reason the importance of that store. No! I stopped my train of thought. It couldn’t be my fateful translator, she’s not on the board. Another voice in my mind repeated Henry’s words about intimidation.I went to work escorted by Krista. There was no sign of Anita and the director didn’t mention it at all. Apparently his problem was solved; he even seemed to be smiling as he brought up his goals for the upcoming week. At least I survived.