BY: GEZA TATRALLYAY
Greg Martens and his wife, former Interpol agent Anne Rossiter, are called back to Vienna by Anne’s former boss at Interpol, since their beautiful Russian friend, Julia Saparova, who is now responsible for monitoring nuclear material at various sites in Russia, has disappeared. Afraid that the “merchants of evil” from the former Soviet Union, who are deeply involved in human trafficking, are behind her disappearance, Greg and Anne embark on an international search for Julia, getting drawn into a messy and disturbing web of human and arms trafficking that takes them first to Hungary and then to Montenegro in a desperate bid to rescue, not only Julia, but a group of girls trafficked from Chelyabinsk oblast as well—girls held hostage to facilitate a nuclear heist…
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Twisted Traffick by Geza Tatrallyay, a former Interpol agent, Anne, and her author husband Greg, are called in by Interpol to help solve the disappearance of a Russian friend, Julia, who has gone missing after she rushed off to meet a man everyone thinks is dead. As the two investigate, they discover a tangled web of corruption and evil, stretching from Russia and Hungary to Vienna and Montenegro. From human trafficking and forced prostitution to hostage rescue and nuclear arms thefts, this intrepid husband and wife team have their hands full. But when Anne goes undercover in a strip club in Vienna, she quickly discovers she has bitten off more than she bargained for. And trying to find her friend just might get them all killed.
While the subject is not a comfortable one, Tatrallyay handles it with sensitivity and compassion, blending fast-paced action with an intriguing mystery, creating an exciting and thought-provoking read.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Twisted Traffick by Geza Tatrallyay is the story of human trafficking and man’s inhumanity to man. The story begins in 1948 with the kidnapping of Katerina Pleshkova, a Russian schoolgirl, who becomes a sex slave for a high-level Russian bureaucrat. Thus begins a chain of events carrying forward to 2018 and the disappearance of Julia Saparova, who is responsible for monitoring nuclear material at sites in Russia. To help find her, Interpol calls in former agent, Anne Rossiter, a friend of Julia’s. Anne and her husband Greg, an author, head for Vienna, where Julia was last seen before she received a message calling her to a meeting with a man who is supposed to be dead. But Julia never returns home after the meeting. As Anne and Greg search for Julia, they fear she has been taken by a human trafficking ring in Russia. The search takes them from Vienna to Hungary, Russia, and Montenegro, and from human trafficking to nuclear heists and the deep dark criminal underworld, where they will be lucky to escape with their lives.
Twisted Traffick is not an easy read. While the writing is excellent, the characters well developed, and the action fast paced, Tatrallyay exposes the harsh reality of a crime that is all too common, and one we know too little about. Blending a captivating mystery with a page-turning thriller, Twisted Traffick is a story you won’t soon forget.
Under the dim halo of the rusting streetlamp, Katerina quickly hugged her friend. Natasha congratulated her again as she took her leave outside the grim apartment block where she lived with her parents and brother. Turning into the biting wind, Katerina picked up the pace and shivered with each thick snowflake that managed to land on bare skin inside her hood and the red scarf she had wrapped several times around her face.
Trying to warm herself, she thought of the praise lavished on her that morning in front of the entire class by Gospodja Yevchenkova for the prize she had won in the physics competition. Not only had her project been the best in the class, but it had also been judged the winner among those submitted by students in their last year at school in all of Chelyabinsk-40. That meant that she would stand a good chance of being accepted at the VUZ of her dreams, the celebrated Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, where her father had studied. He would be proud of her. He might even open a bottle of that sweet Nazdrovia bubbly they all liked so much and let her have a small glass. After all, she had turned sixteen last summer.
The street was deserted in the frigid darkness of the Siberian afternoon: it was hard work trudging through the layers of snow, but Katerina knew that she only had a couple of hundred meters to go, just around the corner, to her building. With the elements howling around her, through all the protective layers she did not hear the purr of the Packard’s motor until the car pulled up right next to her. Wondering why the sleek black limo was stopping, she slowed her steps and, turning, saw two men in black leather coats jump out and move quickly in her direction.
It was only when they grabbed her roughly from either side and lifted her toward the car, that a sudden rush of panic overwhelmed her. They shoved her inside, the doors slammed shut and she heard the click of the lock. A confusing feeling of gratitude for the warmth and comfort of the back seat helped blunt the fear. The Packard took off, spinning its wheels around the corner, and she felt it accelerate again as she forlornly looked out to see her apartment block whizz by through the sheet of falling snow and wondered what her parents would think when she didn’t come home on time.
“Well, you’re a pretty one.” Katerina heard a voice penetrate the darkness. Looking across the backseat, she saw a diminutive, balding man sporting frameless glasses, enveloped in an oversized black leather coat. He looked vaguely familiar. “Aren’t you, my dear?”
She sat unmoving as he reached over to unwrap the scarf around her face and pull back her hood. Only when the man reached inside her coat and started to unbutton it, did she recoil and move closer to the door.
The Packard came to a halt on the other side of the town–by the lake, where Katerina knew all the main party officials lived–outside a huge wrought iron gate behind which loomed a luxurious looking dacha. Their family had been honored last summer by being invited to a party near here somewhere, she remembered–a gala event hosted by the exalted Igor Kurchatov, the head of the entire atomic program and, therefore, the most important person who resided in all of Chelyabinsk-40.
“Bring her in quickly,” the balding man ordered gruffly, slamming the limo door behind him.
His two henchmen pulled her out of the back seat, taking pleasure from roughly manhandling her, and it was only then that it came to Katerina where he had seen the man. Yes, it had been at that very party: Kurchatov had introduced the family to Lavrenti Beria, and she remembered how uncomfortable she had felt when the man had looked her up and down, stroked her hair and then her chin, and said to her father, “You shouldn’t keep this flower hidden, Pleshkov.”
And even more so, when on the way home her father explained who Beria was: the most important Deputy Premier of the Soviet Union, Stalin’s de facto number two. The former head of the dreaded NKVD, the secret police, of which he was still in charge despite his more exalted position. Stalin had also put the sensitive nuclear program centered at Chelyabinsk-40 into Beria’s trusted hands, so he now spent several days a month here to oversee it. Kurchatov reported directly to him, and all the scientists, engineers, everyone–her father included–were there for only one purpose: to develop the Soviet atomic bomb.
But it was the even more frightening discussion that she had with Natasha and Irina at recess one day last spring, a couple of days after their friend Tanya had vanished, that now came flooding back to panic Katerina. Irina reported that she had overheard her father say to her mother that, “no doubt it was that pervert Beria who was behind it all.” And the girls were old enough to know that a “pervert” was not a good person, even if he was the second most powerful man in the entire Soviet Union. In fact, that just made it much, much worse.
Katerina was roughly propelled by the two big men through the gate, along the shoveled walk, and around the big house to a side-door. Once inside, one of the men quickly stripped her of her coat and scarf and, grabbing her by the elbow, pulled her through another heavy door, down some dimly lit steps, through yet another entrance, and into a big room. Here, the thug addressed some words that Katerina did not catch to a man in a uniform with a pistol at his side. The official guffawed and looked at her lasciviously as he produced a set of handcuffs and handed them to the big man, who forced Katerina’s hands behind her back and clipped the shackles around her wrists. The guy then shoved her through another door and into a dark corridor lit only by the light creeping in through the crack from the room they had just left. Katerina saw bars along the side, and her heart raced with fear as she was pushed into a narrow little cage. As she stumbled to the hard earthen floor, she heard the iron-barred gate close with a creak and a key turn in the lock.
Lying there, in total darkness, bruised and sore, Katerina could not hold back the tears. She was deathly cold and terrified, wondering what was going to happen to her and wanting nothing but the warmth and comfort of home with her mother and father and little sister.
Although it seemed like an eternity passed, during which she did not stop crying as she conjured up all kinds of terrors, it was maybe only half an hour later that the door at the end of the corridor opened, allowing light to seep through the crack again. Katerina heard the key inserted in the lock turn and the iron barrier scrape open.
“Don’t touch me!” she screamed, as she felt the rough hands of the guard grope her before tugging her to her feet in one motion.
“Come!” the brute commanded. “The boss wants you.”
She tried to resist, but she had no choice, since the man was strong and moved her swiftly along, through the large room, up the back steps to the main floor, into the hall, then climbing the grand central stairway and along an opulent corridor to the end, where the guard knocked on some big wooden double doors. Katerina heard a voice from inside say “Enter,” as the door opened and she was shoved through. She blinked and wanted to rub the sore arm the thug had gripped so hard to manipulate her, but realized that she was still shackled.
She looked around the luxurious room and saw that the voice must have come from the balding little man from the car with no neck and frameless glasses, standing over by a sideboard pouring a glass of what looked like champagne. Yes. Lavrenti Beria. She was now certain. The face was the same as the unsmiling framed picture in her school, right next to, but slightly below Stalin’s, and the panic she had felt earlier overcame her being again with a vengeance.
In the middle of the room, a table was beautifully set for two, she remarked: embroidered tablecloth and carefully folded matching napkins, steaming hot food on porcelain plates, wine filling crystal glasses. From a gramophone on a chest, she heard the strains of her favorite Rachmaninoff piano concerto.
“Here, my pretty little flower,” Beria said, coming toward her, “how about a glass of French champagne? Bolinger Grand Reserve, 1928.”
It was only then that Katerina noticed that her host had changed into a burgundy silk dressing gown, loosely tied over some more casual clothes.
“Oh, but we must take those off, my dear, mustn’t we–Katerina?” He produced a key and opened the handcuffs, rubbing her sore wrists with his sweaty hands. “What a lovely name! Here, now let’s drink–and here’s to you, my beautiful little one,” he continued, handing her a full flȗte and downing the other one himself. “Come on now, dear, drink up. Our food is waiting for us.”
Beria put his arm around Katerina’s waist and led her over to the table, pulling out one of the chairs for her, and when she didn’t sit down, he pushed her onto it. He took the chair opposite and picked up his napkin. “You must be hungry, my little flower. Bon appetit! Eat.”
And Katerina could not deny that she was famished, so, after hesitating a moment, she lit into the artistically prepared fish and steamed beets and potatoes in front of her. As she ate in silence and sipped on the delicious wine that her captor kept insisting she consume, her hunger was gradually replaced, first by a leaden lassitude, and then by an irresistible sleepiness. She soon found that she could scarcely keep her eyes open, and the voice of Beria saying, “Here, have a little more wine,” seemed to come from ever farther away. She vaguely wondered why she was feeling so tired. Was there perhaps a drug in the champagne or wine?
Katerina hardly understood what she was being ordered to do when, after her first bite of the delicious dessert of Ptichie Moloko or birds’ milk cake–every young girl’s favorite–Beria pulled her to her feet and maneuvered her into a neighboring room with a big bed in it, saying in a harsh voice, “Come, lie down, my dear.”
She obeyed, knowing somehow that maybe this wasn’t what she should be doing, but by now, her entire being craved the prone position and blissful rest so, so much.
Katerina barely felt the now-spectacle-less and naked man rip her clothes off, but she did scream involuntarily as he squeezed her nipples hard and forced himself inside her.
And then it was all darkness–
The world around was still black when Katerina came to, and she shivered as she felt the coldness of the earthen floor beneath her seep through the blanket that now encased her bruised and naked body. When she tried to sit up, she couldn’t. She realized she was sore all over, and especially between her legs. Reaching down there, she felt the wetness still and, bringing her finger to her mouth, she tasted her own blood.
“Oh God, what did that beast do? What did he do to me?”
The questions only brought the panic back, and, as she confronted the hopelessness of her situation, she let the tears flow, yearning for the gentle embrace of her mother, the comforting words of her father–
© 2017 by Geza Tatrallyay
Ottawa Review of Books:
“Tatrallyay was born in Hungary and knows this part of the world well. He creates a vivid atmosphere through which he propels his characters at top speed, never letting the pace slacken or the suspense wane. Though there is less of a history lesson in this book than in the first, Tatrallyay does dip into the real past to give his plot depth. This is welcome and reflects the sensation one often feels in Europe, that the past still has its hand, whether nurturing or threatening, on the shoulder of the present.” ~ Timothy Niedermann, Ottawa Review of Books